What Causes Snoring?
During sleep, the muscles and other soft tissues of the throat relax and the tongue falls backward, narrowing the throat passageway. Breathing through this restricted airway, the soft tissues vibrate and produce the sound known as snoring.
Who is Susceptible to Snoring?
Almost everyone snores at least occasionally, but up to 40% of men and some 24% of women snore chronically. Allergies, asthma, smoking, and colds can cause snoring. Large tonsils can also be a factor. Being overweight increases the likelihood of snoring because of excess fat and tissue around the neck area.
Problems Caused by Snoring
In many cases, snoring may only be a minor annoyance. However, a recent study (*American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2008, March 1) has indicated that loud snorers had significantly greater odds of having hypertension, a heart attack, or a stroke. Furthermore, heavy chronic snoring may be a sign of a serious medical condition known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
Even if there are no immediate negative health effects on the snorer, the noise can affect the snorer’s partner; it impacts their sleep, which can lead to numerous other health issues for them.
Therefore, there are many good reasons for considering treatment.
Treatment Options for Snoring
1) Lifestyle Changes
The best way to begin reducing the problem involves lifestyle changes. Things to try include:
– exercise and weight loss for those who are overweight
– stop smoking
– sleeping on your side
– avoiding alcohol and heavy meals within 3 hours of bedtime
– avoiding muscle relaxants (e.g. Ambien) if possible
The above suggestions are not always enough to resolve snoring.
2) Oral Appliance Therapy
For many people, this is a good option. OAT uses a custom fitted mouthpiece to hold the jaw slightly forward in order to keep the upper airway open during sleep.
3) CPAP – Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
CPAP is a mask worn while sleeping, through which air is pumped to hold the airway open. This has long been considered the most effective treatment if it is used correctly.
There are several different procedures that may performed, depending on the exact problem, but this is obviously the most invasive solution and therefore not usually the best solution.