You may make jokes about your snoring and laugh with your family and friends about your night-time antics.
It could be that you snore only occasionally but if your bed partner describes the sound of your snoring as being more like listening to the buzz of a saw rather than the sweet purr of a kitten, it might be cause for concern. Snoring can be serious and isn’t always something to make jokes about.
When we fall asleep most of the muscles in our body relax including the muscles around our air passages. When this happens the tissues around the air passages vibrate as the air we breathe passes through on its way into and out of the lungs. Snoring occurs when this vibration is excessive.
You might well be wondering what is making these vibrations so excessive in your body that the outcome is nightly snoring.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) can be serious
Any number of factors in the environment around you or inside your physical body can affect snoring. Understanding the causes of snoring is important, especially if your snoring is a constant and nightly activity.
You could have a condition called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) which is actually a stoppage of breathing activity during the night-time and usually occurs over and over during the course of a single sleeping session.
It can be a serious condition but not always. Some OSA can be treated with lifestyle changes, weight loss and by use of oral appliances while other cases need surgical medical interventions.
It could be your sleeping position
One of the most common causes of snoring is sleeping on the back. When in this position there is a tendency for the mouth to hang open allowing the tongue to roll backwards and its weight can collapse the airway enough for loud snoring to occur.
When this happens a nudge from the bed partner is often enough to get the back-sleeper to roll over and end the snoring. If you sleep alone there’s another trick that might help.
Some folks have had success by taping a tennis ball onto the back of their pajama top or t-shirt. It has to be a form-fitting top for this method to work. When they unconsciously try to roll over onto the back when asleep the position is uncomfortable (or impossible!) and they soon lose the habit of sleeping on their back. With luck, the snoring habit disappears too!
Obesity is another factor to consider
When weight is gained that means extra fat is being stored all over the body. These fat deposits often cause snoring in more ways than one. If the neck becomes thicker around the airway then the air passage becomes more restricted and narrows.
The narrowing means tissues vibrate more violently and snoring erupts. Extra fat packed into the abdomen means more labored breathing as the lungs struggle to fill properly.
Fat in the chest cavity can restrict both the lungs and the heart and this can cause serious medical problems as well as contributing to nightly snoring.
It’s never easy to lose weight. Many people try and fail but it’s worth the effort. The list of health issues associated with obesity is long and sobering. Each pound lost can make a difference.
Inherited physique and bodily injuries can increase the risk.
Certain physical features or injuries to the nose and jaw can contribute to the likelihood of night-time snoring:
- A chin that recedes
- Tonsils that are enlarged
- Adenoid glands that are large and/or swollen
- A thick neck
- A naturally large tongue
- Fatty tissues in the airway
- A deviated septum
- Damage to the TMJ joint
- Men have smaller airways than women and are more likely to snore
- Heredity is a factor in snoring. If either parent snores the likelihood of you snoring or becoming a snorer increases.
- Age is a factor too. From middle-age onward due to physical changes, snoring is more likely.
Snoring can be the result of specific situations
Snoring that is occasional can be caused by a variety of factors and situations:
- Constriction of nasal passages due viral cold infection
- Infections of the sinus cavities
- Allergic reactions result in labored nose breathing or mouth breathing and will result in snoring.
- Chronic rhinitis
- Alcohol consumption close to bed-time.
- Cigarette smoking, especially just before bed is irritating to the airway and is a common cause of snoring amongst smokers.
- Snacking on mucus causing foods, such as milk and wheat, close to bed-time.