Are you the victim of snoring? Do you know someone who snores? Whether you are the one affected with this ailment or a person you share your bed with has this condition, I am sure you know how snoring can disturb a good night’s sleep.
It is never pleasant for any of the parties experiencing those disturbing nights. Living with the stigma of snoring becomes an acceptable factor in our lives to the point that most people do not even realise that snoring can be treated.
Snoring is a common sleeping disorder and it affects about 25% of the Australian population. “The major problem is that your throat becomes obstructed while you sleep, which leads to snoring”, says Dr Garry Cussell, the founder of Specialist Clinics of Australia. There are a number of factors that contribute to snoring. Here are Dr Cussell’s top five reasons why your throat can become obstructed:
1. Poor muscle tone in the tongue and throat
When you sleep, your throat muscles relax, which is completely normal. However, with the use of alcohol or sleeping medication, it increases the risk of snoring. “Drinking alcohol relaxes the throat muscles, which as we learned will be the immediate problem of excessive snoring,” explains Dr Cussell. By eliminating any alcoholic beverages before bedtime, you can avoid many problems associated with the snoring.
2. Excessive bulkiness of throat tissue
Overweight people may have excess soft tissue gathering in and around the throat. “The primary cause of their snoring is because their throats are fleshier and therefore, have more blockages that narrow the air passages,” says Dr Cussell. Our best advice is to lose the excess weight, as this often alleviates snoring.
3. Long soft palate and/or uvula
The bodily structures that are involved in snoring are soft palate and uvula. A long soft palate narrows the opening from the nose into the throat. “An elongated soft palate and enlarged uvula may further obstruct the airway,” explains Dr Cussell. “The excessive length of the soft palate and uvula acts as a noisy flutter valve during relaxed breathing.” When the tissues at the top of the airways touch each other, they cause vibrations, which results in snoring.
4. Mucosal obstruction
Sleeping well can seem impossible, especially if you’re dealing with an ear, nose or throat problem. You need a healthy nasal airway to breathe soundly through the night. “Sinus infection, allergies and other causes of nasal obstruction can make breathing difficult at night,” says Dr Cussell. “Anything that causes you to breathe through your mouth prevents your nose from filtering the air you breathe, which results in a higher level of sleep disturbance.”
Breathing through your mouth instead of your nose can result in more problems. “Breathing through your nose is less work because there is more resistance than breathing through your mouth,” explains Dr Cussell. “When you breathe through your mouth at night, your jaw and tongue can fall back and block your airway, which increases the chance of snoring.”
5. Deformities of the nose or nasal septum
Deformities of the nose such as a deviated septum, which is a structural change in the wall that separates one nostril from the other, or a nasal polyp can also cause an obstruction on the throat. “Although this is related to structure of the nose itself, it is an important factor when it comes to snoring,” says Dr Cussell. The idea behind it is very much alike in the mucosal obstruction: in order to breathe, you have to pull the air harder, which creates an exaggerated vacuum in you throat. Hence, you snore.
Snoring is not just an annoying condition of your loved one or your own. It might be a sign of more serious conditions such as heart disease or obstructive sleep apnoea (it is when your breathing pauses while you are asleep because your airway has become narrowed or partly blocked), which untreated increases the risk of developing heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and many other medical problems. This is why it is vital to see a medical doctor and take care of the problem.