An Overview Of Snoring
When some people sleep, their breathing becomes harsh-sounding, due to a partial obstruction of the airways. This condition is commonly known as snoring, and apart from being irritating to others, can also be an indication of some other serious health problem.
Snoring happens when air flows past the relaxed tissues in the throat, and happens to many adults. These tissues then start to vibrate, creating those irritating noises.
Certain lifestyle changes can help to combat snoring, as well as surgery and medical devices that have been developed for the sole purpose of reducing these disruptive, irritating sounds.
Symptoms and causes of snoring
Although snoring is frequently associated with OSA/Obstructive Sleep Apnea, it doesn’t mean that everyone who snores has the condition. However, if the following symptoms accompany your snoring, then it might be a good idea to have your doctor assess you for OSA:
• Excessive sleepiness during the day
• Making noises during your sleep
• Morning headaches
• Difficulty in concentrating
• Restless sleep
• Sore throat
• High blood pressure
• Choking or gasping in your sleep
• Chest pains during the night
• Your loud snoring disrupting your sleeping partner
• Gasping or choking as you wake up in the morning
There are several factors that can cause snoring, such as:
• Alcohol consumption
• The anatomy of your sinuses and mouth
• Colds and allergies
• Weight issues
• Your sleeping position
• Sleep deprivation
• Sleep apnea
Risk factors that contribute to snoring
• Being a man — more men than women tend to snore or have sleep apnea than women
• Narrow airway
• A family history of sleep apnea or snoring
Apart from being disruptive to your partner, if you snore, other complications can develop too, including:
• Sleepiness during the day
• Frequent feelings of anger or frustration
• Difficulty in concentrating
• Learning problems or aggression in the case of children snoring
• A higher risk of causing a vehicle accident through sleep deprivation
When to consult a doctor
When your snoring starts to have an adverse effect on your life, then it’s time to pay your doctor a visit. He/she might refer you to an ear, nose and throat specialist, or another medical professional that specializes in sleep disorders. Usually, these appointments are not lengthy at all, so it’s a good idea to be prepared with what you should talk to your doctor about during your appointment.
Write down all the symptoms you’re experiencing, and ask your partner to write down those that occur while you’re sleeping. It would be even better if your partner can accompany you to your appointment and discuss these symptoms him/herself, with your doctor.
When you visit your doctor about your snoring, ask him/her the following questions:
• Why do I snore?
• Could I have some other serious problem like sleep apnea?
• What tests will I need to undergo?
• What does a sleep test involve?
• What are the different methods of treating snoring, and which one would you recommend for me?
• Do the treatments have side effects?
• Besides the primary treatment that you’re recommending, are there alternatives available?
• Are there any self-help remedies that will help?
• I have other health issues. How do I manage these and my snoring?
• Do you have any brochures on the subject that I can take home with me?
• Is there a website on snoring that I can visit?
Your doctor will more than likely ask you certain questions too, such as:
• When did you start to snore?
• Do you frequently wake up during the night?
• Do you snore every night, or only sometimes?
• Is there anything you do that seems to make it better?
• What seems to make your condition worse?
• Do you ever wake up choking, snorting or gasping?
• Is your breathing ever irregular, or do you ever stop breathing for a few seconds when you are sleeping?
Your doctor will evaluate your signs and symptoms, as well as your medical history to diagnose your condition, and will also give you a physical examination. He/she might send you for x-rays in order to check for problems in your airway, and depending on how severe your problem is, may also recommend that you undergo a sleep study. These studies can often be done at home, but if you have other sleep symptoms or other health issues, they will be done at a sleep study center.
An in-depth study called a polysomnography will be carried out at the sleep center, where you will be connected to several devices and stay overnight for the duration of the study. Many things are recorded during this time, including your blood oxygen level, brain waves, breathing rate, heart rate, sleep stages, as well as your leg and eye movements.
Drugs and treatments
The first thing that your doctor will probably recommend, is a few lifestyle changes, like not drinking alcohol just before going to bed, losing weight, avoiding sleeping on your back, avoiding sleep deprivation, and treating nasal congestion.
Should you be snoring as a result of sleep apnea, your doctor might recommend:
• CPAP, or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, which involves wearing a pressurized mask covering your nose as you sleep. A small pump is attached to the mask that forces air through the airway, thus keeping it open as you breath
• Oral appliances that are designed to keep the air passage open
• Standard surgery procedure for snoring
• Palatal implants, that involve twisted braids of polyester filament being injected into the soft palate to make it firmer
• Somnoplasty/Radiofrequency Tissue Ablation. An outpatient procedure that involves shrinking the tissue of the soft palate
• Laser surgery. A procedure where the soft palate is shortened, and the uvula removed
Home remedies and lifestyle
Certain home remedies and changes to your lifestyle that can help to quiet snoring or prevent it altogether, include:
• Losing weight
• Raising the head of your bed
• Sleeping on your side
• Treating nasal congestion
• Using an external nasal dilator or nasal strips to expand the nasal passage and help you breathe easier
• Avoiding sedatives and alcohol
• Getting sufficient sleep
• Quitting smoking
Since snoring is experienced by so many people, countless products like nasal sprays or homeopathic remedies are available, with many sufferers trying alternative methods in an attempt to get relief from snoring. Singing and playing certain musical instruments are reported to play a role in the reduction of snoring.
Coping with snoring
Snoring can lead to frustration and fatigue through lack of sleep, but there are certain things that you can do to cope with your condition until you see your doctor. Your partner can use earplugs to block out the sound, or have some background noise in the room, like a radio playing soft music, or a fan, to mask the sound of your snoring.