Snoring is often caused by an anatomical abnormality or some sort of nasal obstruction. Getting a clear picture about how we breathe and the parts of the body involved with the process will help any snorer as they gather information and consider how to deal with their snoring issue.
There are various medical interventions, dental appliances and natural cures available that can help with or even eliminate a snoring problem. If you can picture what your body is physically doing when you breathe it will help you understand how the various solutions for snoring problems actually work.
Why we breathe
The body needs oxygen to function and also needs to get rid of waste product gases. Breathing is how the body accomplishes these basic tasks that are necessary for life itself. The process of breathing includes the nose, mouth, muscles in and around the chest, the diaphragm and the lungs.
The muscles involved with breathing
There are more than one group of muscles involved with the activity of breathing. These muscles are located in the neck, in between the ribs and also in the abdomen. The large muscle that separates the abdomen and lungs is shaped like a bell and called the diaphragm.
It is the most important muscle involved in the breathing process. It attaches to the lower sections of the spine and ribcage as well as to the base of the breastbone. The intake of breath begins with a signal from the brain that is sent through nerves which are connected to all the breathing muscles.
When this message is received the diaphragm tightens and begins to flatten out. Simultaneously the ribcage begins to expand as the lungs start to fill with air.
What happens when we inhale through the nose?
When we breathe through our nostrils air flows in and then proceeds through our nasal structures and the sinus channels to the back of the nasal passage. Air then flows over the soft palate and through the choana, a small tunnel, and enters the nasopharynx.
The nasopharynx is located at the very end of the nasal cavity. From here air flows downwards through the wind-pipe (trachea), past the voice box (larynx) and into the lungs.
What happens when we inhale through the mouth?
When inhaling through the mouth, air flows over the tongue and beneath the hard palate. As it reaches the back of the mouth it will travel between the Uvula (the small bit if tissue that can be seen hanging down when the mouth is opened wide) and the base of the tongue, positioned below.
The air then moves past the oropharynx at the back of the throat where it then takes the same route that air inhaled through the nose travels; through the windpipe, past the voice box and into the lungs.
The lungs, bronchi, bronchioles and alveoli
When we inhale oxygen rich air it eventually rushes into the lungs and travels through a series of branchlike tubes (bronchi) that become narrower (bronchioles) as they extend throughout the lung tissues. The air eventually reaches the alveoli, which are little sacs. These little baloon-like sacs expand as they fill with air. It is right at this location where the much needed oxygen that is carried into the body with the air we inhale is exchanged for carbon dioxide and other waste gases; these are products which the body needs to expel.
Each of these little baloons is surrounded by very tiny blood vessels. Oxygen from the air that we inhale passes through the walls of the alveoli and into these blood vessels. Simultaneously carbon dioxide and other waste gases that the blood has collected on its route through the body are passed in the opposite direction through these same membrane walls into the interior of the alveoli. This waste material can now exit the body as we exhale.
What happens when we exhale?
When the air that was inhaled has given up it’s oxygen in exchange for the body’s waste gases the muscles of the chest and the diaphragm relax and the whole process reverses. The relaxation of these muscles pushes the air out of the alveoli, through bronchioles and bronchi and back up through the windpipe. The air then exits the body either through the mouth or the nose.
So, why do some of snore when we are sleeping?
Snoring is caused by a disruption of the airflow as you inhale and exhale during sleep. The most usual cause is a narrowing of the air passage at the back of the mouth behind the uvula where tongue, soft palate, and upper trachea all come together. Narrowing of nasal passage ways is another common cause. Some snoring is mild and happens only occasionally while other types of snoring herald more serious health issues.
Now that you have a basic understanding of the anatomy of breathing you will be better able to choose between the anti-snoring devices and various other medical and non medical options that are available to you.