Chronic Snoring

Last updated: April 10, 2019

The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Read our full medical disclaimer.

Snoring is a common sleeping disorder. Although anyone can get affected by snoring, this is a condition that is more common among men and overweight individuals. Snoring can also worsen as one age.

Snoring from time to time is nothing to worry about. It is often more bothersome to the sleeping partner of the affected individual. However, chronic snoring should not be taken for granted. Habitual snorers can disrupt the sleep patterns of their sleeping partners. Not only that, but chronic snoring can also impair the snorer’s own sleep. Chronic snorers should seek medical attention so that they and their partners can have a good night’s sleep.

What is snoring?

Snoring is a kind of noisy breathing while a person sleeps. According to the National Sleep Foundation, snoring affects approximately 90 million American adults. Of the said number, 37 million are chronic snorers. Although more common in adults, snoring can also affect all ages and genders. And while women are also at risk, adult males are the ones often affected by snoring.

Although snoring is often loud and unpleasant, some snorers produced a sound that is soft and low.

What causes snoring?

While a person sleeps, the muscles on his throat relax. This means that his tongue falls backward and the throat becomes narrow. Whenever he breathes, the walls of his throat vibrate. These vibrations often occur whenever a person breathes in. However, the walls of the throat can also vibrate when a person breathes out. These vibrations produce the sound we call snores. A narrow airway produces a more intense vibration and louder snores. There are also instances when the walls of the throat completely collapse and prevent breathing. This is another sleep disorder called sleep apnea.

There are several factors that can cause snoring. These include:

Age

Snoring is often associated with aging. This is due to the changes that the body undergoes as it ages. The normal aging process results in the relaxation of the throat muscles. The same way that the human skin loses tension with age, aging also causes the muscles in the body to become weaker and less toned. Loss of tone is more evident in the soft palate which is one of the sources of snoring.

As one age, a person also has a harder time maintaining his weight. Aging means a slower metabolism and decrease in physical activity. These are factors that can cause a person to easily gain weight. When a person gains weight on the neck and midriff areas, that person increases the risk of snoring.

Another factor that goes hand in hand with aging is the increase in the intake of medication. Some medication like drugs for heart conditions and high blood pressure can cause a congested nose. When the nose gets congested, there is an increase in the likelihood of snoring.

A person also has decreased immunity as he ages. This means that an older person is more susceptible to colds. Colds can cause blocked noses which can result in snoring.

Obesity

Obesity and snoring come hand in hand. They are often interchangeably linked. Obesity can cause snoring and snoring can result in obesity. The distribution of fat in the human body can determine whether a person snores or not. An abundance of fat in the neck can cause snoring. This is due to the upper airways getting compressed by neck fat, especially when a person is lying down.

Central obesity can also result in snoring. In central obesity, fat is concentrated around the midriff and chest of a person. When a person has too much fat around the midriff, the diaphragm gets pushed up by belly fat. On the other hand, fat located on the chest compresses the ribcage. These two conditions result in the shrinkage of the volume of the lungs. A decrease in the capacity of the lungs restricts airflow. This means that there is less air to keep some shape in the throat and prevent its collapse.

The distribution of fat may also explain why more men have snoring problems compared to women. Men have more central fat on the neck, chest, and abdomen. With women, body fat is usually gained peripherally. Women gain fat on the thighs, buttocks, and hips. However, once a woman reaches menopause, the distribution of fat changes. They have an increased chance of gaining central weight which makes snoring more common.

Pregnancy

Snoring in pregnant women begin in the second trimester. This happens as a result of the release of pregnancy hormones that result in nasal congestion. The surging of pregnancy hormones causes the mucous membranes in the nose to swell. These congestions increase when a pregnant woman lies down.

Another factor that makes pregnant women more prone to snoring is excessive weight gain. Weight gained during pregnancy results in extra tissue around the neck and head. This leads to the compression of the airways which results in snoring.

Allergies

There are some individuals whose snoring is a result of allergies. An allergen like dust can cause a blocked nose which results in snoring. Most of the dust in households are due to flaking skin. It is not the dust that causes allergy though. Allergy is caused by the dust mites that dust attracts. Dust mites are microscopic arachnids that feed on skin flakes. The waste that dust mites produce contains proteins. These proteins are a major cause of allergic reactions in humans.

Posture

One’s sleeping position or posture can also cause snoring. Back sleepers are more prone to snoring compared to those who prefer to sleep on their sides or their stomachs. When a person sleeps on his back, his mouth tends to fall open. This results in the change in the shape of the upper airway. Gravity affects the face, head, and neck which then leads to a compression of the airway. This condition is more common to those who are overweight because they have more fat in the neck area.

Whenever a person sleeps on his back, his jaw recedes and compresses his upper airway. The tongue also falls back. This sleeping position also leads to a more oval shape of the upper airway. These factors disturb the airflow and cause vibrations that come out as snoring.

What are the symptoms of snoring?

Snoring is often associated with Obstructive Sleep Apnea. However, not all snorers have OSA. Snoring is often considered a minor sleep disorder because even though it is bothersome, it doesn’t present any major health concerns. But, if snoring comes with any of the symptoms listed below, a person should get evaluated for OSA.

  • Breathing pauses while sleeping
  • Lack of concentration
  • Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
  • Headaches
  • Restless sleep
  • Gasping or choking during sleep
  • Chest pains
  • High blood pressure
  • Poor attention span in children

How is snoring treated?

There are several ways to relieve snoring and its symptoms. The treatment will depend on the root cause of the issue.

Weight loss

Excessive weight is one of the most common causes of snoring. If a person notices that the snoring started after a weight gain, weight loss may help prevent snoring. Losing weight can help eliminate the layers of fat, particularly in the neck and chest area, that causes breathing difficulties and snoring.

Alcohol avoidance

Alcoholic beverages reduce the resting tone of the muscles located in the back of the throat. This increases the risk of snoring. This is why people who don’t normally snore, snore after having a drink. Aside from alcohol, sedatives also have the same effect on the throat muscles. If a sedative is the cause of snoring, the patient should inform his physician so that he might get a prescription for a different sedative.

Change in sleeping position

Those whose snoring is a result of sleeping on their backs should change their sleeping position. Sleeping on their back can help relieve snoring. This may be challenging especially for those who are life-long back sleepers. The use of a body pillow can help a person maintain a side sleeping position.

For those who are unable to sleep unless they are on their backs, getting a reclining bed might help fix the issue. If the bed cannot be reclined, propping the head up with a firm extra pillow can also work. Sleeping on the back but with the head up and extended results in open nasal passages. This can help prevent snoring. However, this sleeping position may cause neck pains.

Maintaining open nasal passages

This can help those whose snoring is a result of blocked or clogged nasal passages. Taking a hot shower before going to bed can help open one’s nasal passages. Rinsing the nose with salt water can also help. The use of a neti pot can help to rinse the nasal passages with salt water easier.

A patient can also purchase nasal strips or nasal dilators. These strips work by lifting the nasal passages and keeping them open. This will only help if the snoring originates from the nose and not within the soft palate.

Maintaining a clean sleeping environment

If a person suspects that his snoring is a result of allergens, making sure that the bedroom is clean at all times can help prevent snoring. Dust mites accumulate in pillows. Fluff the pillows once every two weeks. This can help prevent allergic reactions to dust mites. If possible, replace the pillows, every six months. Some people are allergic to pet dander or the dead skin of pets. If this is the case, pets should be kept out of the bedroom.

Staying hydrated

Staying hydrated can help prevent snoring. When a person gets dehydrated, the mucus and other secretions in the nose and the soft palate become stickier. This can aggravate snoring. Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated can help relieve this type of snoring.

Using Appliances

The use of dental appliances can help prevent chronic snoring. There are dental appliances called mandibular advancement splints that can help relieve snoring. These appliances work by advancing the lower jaw slightly. This pulls the tongue forward and relieves snoring.

CPAP machine

A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine is not just for controlling snoring but for treating sleep apnea as well. This machine works by keeping the airway open through a controlled stream of air pumped into the nose or mouth. A CPAP mask is usually placed over the nose or mouth to achieve this effect.

Medication

If the cause of snoring is an allergic reaction, a doctor may prescribe an antihistamine to relieve the patient from the symptoms of the allergy.

Snoring is a sleep disorder often left untreated. This is because its symptoms are often not threatening. However, this doesn’t mean that one should disregard snoring. Snoring can affect not just the quality of sleep of the patients but also of the people around them. It can lead to strains in their relationships and may even affect their personal and professional lives.

Snoring is also often associated with Sleep Apnea. This is a more serious concern and should not be taken for granted. A sleep specialist can help a chronic snorer treat this sleep disorder so he can get the quality sleep he deserves.

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The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Read our full medical disclaimer.