There are a million jokes about snoring spouses, and no one wants to believe that they actually do it. In fact, many people simply think they’re being teased when their sleep partner starts to complain about not being able to get a single wink due to the noise.
While the other person succumbs to sleep deprivation, the snorer often ignores the situation or is simply too embarrassed to seek medical attention.
Unfortunately, snoring is more than a nuisance; this health condition is a very real – and very dangerous – problem. Chronic snoring is actually a sleep disorder that can lead to constant fatigue, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems. So first you need to understand the different types of snoring and what causes them.
#1 Chronic Snoring
If you snore almost every night, you’re a chronic snorer. This is usually caused by another health condition that partially obstructs your airway and prevents proper breathing while you sleep. Although no problem is apparent while you’re awake and more vertical, a reclining position and the relaxation that normally comes with sleep allows this problem to present itself.
#2 Casual Snoring
Many people only snore now and then. While this doesn’t necessarily cause the same health problems as chronic snoring, it doesn’t equal a pleasant night of sleep for either the snorer or anyone else within hearing distance. In many cases, casual snoring may occur if you have a temporary respiratory problem, if you drink too much, or if you take a sedative.
Physical Causes of Snoring:
When the air flowing through your mouth and nose is physically obstructed, the walls of your throat vibrate as you breathe. This process creates the all-too-familiar sound of snoring. Several factors usually combine to create this condition including:
When the nasal passages become partially blocked, it takes more effort for air to move through them while you sleep. This extra pressure can cause the non-rigid tissue in your throat to collapse and cause snoring. In some people, this can be caused by a deviated septum, nasal polyps, or other nasal deformities. Others only have airway obstructions when they suffer from sinus infections or seasonal allergies.
Throat and Tongue Muscle Tone
Bet you didn’t even know your throat or tongue had muscle tone, did you? Just like every other part of your body that moves, these structures contain muscles, and they can lose their tone due to aging and other issues. These muscles can also become overly relaxed, just like any other muscle, when the snorer reaches deep sleep, has a little too much to drink, or uses sleeping pills. When this happens, the throat and tongue muscles relax too much causing the airway to fill as the structures collapse.
Too Much Throat Tissue
Sometimes, the snorer just has too much throat tissue, and it fills the airways as they sleep. This often happens with overweight people and with children who have over-sized adenoids and tonsils. Luckily, children often outgrow this situation, and adults can manage their symptoms by reducing or maintaining their weight.
Long Uvula or Soft Palate
Many people have a uvula, the dangly piece of tissue that hangs down in the back of your mouth, or soft palate that’s longer than necessary. Either structure can block the rear portion of your mouth while you sleep and obstruct your airway.
Mouth Breathing and Back Sleeping
All of these problems can be aggravated by snorers who tend to breathe through their mouths while sleeping or prefer sleeping on their backs. In many cases, a gentle nudge that turns the snorer on their side can alleviate this symptom as the structure that is blocking the airway shifts and the breathing passages clear.
In some cases, snoring is accompanied by obstructive sleep apnea, a very dangerous health condition. If you suffer from this disorder, you will actually stop breathing during your sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by periods of very loud snoring intermixed with periods of silence as breathing slows or stops. The lack of oxygen finally wakes the snorer up as they gasp for breath. To be officially considered as having obstructive sleep apnea, the patient must have at least five of these episodes within an hour.
Many options exist to help you stop snoring, like chin straps, mouthpieces, exercises and other all-natural snoring solutions. Severe snoring issues like sleep apnea may require a CPAP machine or surgical procedures to rectify them.
Although it’s not immediately life-threatening, snoring is a serious health issue and should always be treated as such. If you’ve been accused of “sawing logs” on a regular basis, ask your doctor what you can do to manage this problem.