Men or women, and animals too; we all snore. However, if the act of snoring is regular and daily, the quality and quantity of your sleep and of others around can be disturbed.

Snoring is the harsh or hoarse sound from the nose or mouth that occurs when your breathing is obstructed while sleeping. During your sleep, the muscles of your airways loosen, making them narrow, and as you inhale and exhale, the moving air causes the loose tissues to make noise, which is nothing but snoring. 

Snoring is largely affected by the stage of your sleep, your sleeping position, use of certain medications and alcohol.

If snoring is too often or happens every day, it may become a problem for family members.

Sometimes, snoring can also suggest an underlying medical problem. Snoring can result in a serious form of sleep apnea (a sleep disorder in which your breathing repeatedly stops and starts), known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Read on to understand the causes, signs and symptoms, complications, treatment, and prevention of snoring.

What causes snoring?

You snore because your airways narrow in sleep, creating resistance in the passageways that connect your nose and your mouth to the lungs. The narrower the tube, the greater amount of pressure needed to establish enough flow. 

If you are overweight and have a thick neck, there is more pressure on your airways, and they tend to collapse as you sleep.

Snoring happens when the tissues around the nasal region vibrate while you breathe in your sleep, hence the noise. If there is too much nasal and throat tissue around the throat, you are prone to snore more than usual. Sometimes, even the position of your tongue can play culprit- aiding snoring all the more by not allowing smooth breathing. 

You could also snore if you breathe through your mouth. When you breathe through your mouth because of nasal airway obstruction, it is referred to as mouth breathing. The flow of air through your mouth can cause greater vibration of tissues, and hence, snoring.

In addition to these, your weight, age, body frame, other nasal infections, medications, smoking, alcoholism, sleep posture, etc., can contribute to the annoying habit of snoring.

What are the consequences of snoring?

Frequent snoring leads to:

  • Poor sleep habits 

  • Daytime fatigue 

  • Reduced concentration and focus

  • Increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), and stroke

  • Strained relationships with dear ones

If your snoring occurs three or more times in a week or is getting very loud, it is advisable to check with your pulmonologist/ENT specialist.

How to treat snoring?

The treatment will depend on the cause of your snoring. Using over-the-counter devices to treat snoring is not recommended unless it is in consultation with your doctor. 

Common treatments include:

  • Anti-snoring or dental mouthpieces to control the position of your tongue and soft palates and to keep your airways open.

  • Palatal implants are injected into your palate to stiffen it and to reduce snoring. A palatal implant is a special type of oral implant that is designed to relieve snoring.

  • Surgery to tighten and trim excess tissues, if any, in your airways. 

  • CPAP, APAP, or BiPAP devices to eliminate sleep apnea and snoring. CPAP, APAP, or BiPAP stands for continuous, auto, or bi-level positive airway pressure devices, which use air pressure to keep your airways open while you sleep, so you do not stop breathing.

Masks and mouthpieces must be used regularly to see a difference over a period of time. 

How can you prevent snoring?

Here are a few lifestyle changes to make, and with the help of your specialist, you can overcome this peril too!

1. Get to the gym or work out at home to lose weight, which would help reduce fatty tissues in your throat. Regular exercise every day would strengthen your body, tone your throat muscles and help stop snoring too. 

2. Regular sleep patterns are a must to follow, which should be stuck to as much as possible. Ask your partner to help you out with this, buddy up, and follow the same for at least a month and watch the difference. 

3. Use an air humidifier if you live in areas with dry climates. Dry air can play havoc with your sleep cycle and breathing pattern. A humidifier helps moisten the air and before you sleep, a nasal decongestant would help clear the sinuses too. 

Having a clear sinus (air-filled sacs, 4 in number, that are present in your facial bones) reduces the incidence of snoring.

4. Dust your beds before you sleep. The bacteria, dust mites, and other elements invisible to your eyes would be shunned away, and not allowed into your throat or the nasal tract. 

And while you sleep, change your position as and when possible. Your head should be four inches above the body level to help with better breathing. 

5. Cut down smoking, reduce alcohol and avoid sedatives. Cut down on the number of your smokes per day, the number of glasses of wine and alcohol per session, and the overuse of sleeping drugs, since they are all sedatives. 

Sedatives (prescription medications that slow down your brain activity and induce sleep) do not help in attaining proper sleep, hence talk to your family doctor about the medication he/she provides you with- it shouldn't interfere with your sleep levels.

Start following these changes and sleep peacefully!

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.