10 Reasons You Snore
There is snoring and there is snoring. If you are towards the gentle end of the heavy breathing spectrum the chances are that you annoy people only infrequently. If, however, you are a heavy snorer the likelihood is that the members of your family will become so stressed and tired that they almost want to kill you.
Face it – life with a snorer in the house is just downright unpleasant. It is not unknown for heavy snorers to be heard half the house away, their heavy, gasping breathing preventing anyone else from getting a good night’s sleep. If you snore like this you are probably making life miserable for everyone around you. The more they suffer from interrupted sleep the more likely they are to get annoyed with you. You are also not immune from damage through snoring. Although you may not wake yourself up through your snoring (although it is not unknown) your sleep will be disturbed and you will not be getting enough rest to recuperate from the strains of the day. If this continues for a long time you will be less healthy, prone to viruses and colds and more prone to the effects of work stress.
If you or your loved one spend the night gasping and groaning away to the detriment of your family and each other you may be tempted to try any number of over the counter remedies. It is quite common for the poor snorer to be subjected to all sorts of indignities – throat sprays, nasal strips, silver rings on acupressure points. Some of these remedies will work for some people but there is no one size fits all fix. Snoring happens when air is prevented or blocked from getting easily into the lungs and the excess air causes the soft palette to vibrate. The only way to cure your snoring is to work out what is causing the impediment and then learn how best to manage that problem.
With that in mind here are the top 10 reasons you might be snoring and what you can do to make it better.
10. You breathe through your mouth
We are capable of breathing through both our nose and our mouth. Indeed when we are doing strenuous work such as heavy exercise we will often use our mouth to breathe in order to bring more oxygen into our lungs than we can through using our nose alone. This is fine. If, however, a person uses their mouth to breath as a matter of course it can lead to problems.
Children who breathe through their mouth are likely to get crooked teeth and a receding chin. They are also likely to suffer from a host of health problems which they share with adult mouth breathers. These include getting bad headaches, sore throats, digestive problems and sleep disturbances.
Nasal breathing is vitally important to good, snoreless sleep. When you take air in through your nose it will add nitric oxide to the air that passes into your lungs. This actually helps the lungs to absorb more oxygen. If your nose gets congested and stuffed up easily you are going to compensate by breathing through your mouth which can aggravate snoring.
It might be tempting to think that there is nothing to be done to change your breathing habits. It is certainly not an easy thing to do but it is possible. If you are a mouth breather you will need to retrain your facial muscles to learn to breathe through your nose. This takes time but can be done and your doctor will be able to help you locate a suitable therapist to assist you. There are also devices available which help to position the mouth to prevent excess mouth breathing.
9. Your facial structures are the wrong shape
Because snoring is caused by vibration in the soft tissues of your mouth deformities in these structures can make you more prone to snoring. ‘Risk’ indicators include a long soft palate (more tissue equals more vibration), an excess of tissue in the throat and a long uvula (the bit that hangs down between your tonsils.
Because of the importance of nasal breathing to health and wellbeing nasal problems can also cause snoring. The nasal septum is the piece of cartilage that divides the right nostril from the left. If this is crooked, either as a result of genetic inheritance or because you have suffered a trauma to the face, it can lead to problems with breathing and therefore cause snoring. If this is the case it can be treated with a corrective operation that will straighten the septum and, usually, stop the snoring.
8. You are sleeping in the wrong position
Humans are creatures of habit – there is no getting away from it, we like to do things in the same way day after day, it makes us feel comfortable and secure. Nowhere in our lives are habits more important than at bedtime. Most people have a certain side of the bed they sleep on, even if their partner is out of town, and find it difficult to settle if they have to sleep on the other side of the bed. This reliance on habit impacts not just the side of the bed that people sleep on but the position they sleep in when they have laid down on that side. Most of the time that will not cause any problems at all but if you habitually sleep on your back you may be setting yourself up for snoring problems.
For those who have larger than average internal facial structures such as a large soft palate (see above) sleeping on the back will cause the airway to collapse in on itself. This will lead to excess air being present in the mouth and therefore vibration of the tissues – in other words snoring.
The problem is not just confined to people who sleep on their back – some people are side sleeping snorers – because the position of their tongue and mouth on their sides leads to air blockages.
If your snoring is related to sleeping position then the best thing you can do to prevent it is to try and change the habit of a lifetime and change the way you sleep. Whether you chose to sew a tennis ball into the back of your pajamas to force you to sleep on your side or enlist the help of your partner to force you to turn over if you get in the wrong position it is worth a try. You might find that this resolves the problem for you. If it does not then you are probably snoring for another reason (although your sleeping position may have exacerbated it).
7. You have drunk too much alcohol
Most people like a glass of wine or a bottle of beer from time to time. Alcohol and its consumption is a normal part of our society and accepted as such. It is important, however, to know your limits particularly if you are prone to snoring.
Alcohol may help lubricate the social wheels of your nights out but it has a sedative effect on our bodies. Drink too much and you will sleep very deeply indeed. Not only will you sleep deeply but your body tissues will be almost anesthetized by the effects of the alcohol and your internal facial tissues such as your uvula and soft palate will collapse more readily. This in turn will impede airflow and cause the vibration which we know as snoring. If you drink regularly you may become more prone to alcohol induced sleep apnea (see below) and alcohol can also cause irritation of the nasal passages which may lead to congestion that causes snoring. Consuming alcohol can actually double the likelihood that you will snore.
If you notice that alcohol consumption brings on a snoring attack then the best thing you can do is either limit your consumption or make sure that you take your last drink 3-4 hours before you go to bed. This will help clear your system to prevent the anesthetic effect of the alcohol on your body.
6. You are getting older
It is an unfortunate fact of life that as we get older our bodies get less efficient at doing what they are meant to do. This means that as our age increases, so do weight issues (see below) whilst our muscle tone decreases. If someone has a predisposition to a poorly toned soft palate but the effects have been kept at bay by youth and exercise, the person will almost certainly find that they snore more as they age. Older people are also more likely to be taking medication to cause snoring (see below). Hormonal changes that come with the menopause can also trigger snoring problems in women who have not previously snored.
If you find that snoring issues creep up on you with age you might benefit from investigating some of the snoring remedies that are out there, whether they be mouth guards or nasal strips. It is worth experimenting because a good night’s sleep is essential to good health. As you age your body takes longer to regenerate than it did when you were younger and good sleep is an important and necessary part of the regeneration process.
5. You are carrying too much weight
Being overweight is bad for you. It is bad for your health because it puts excess strain on your heart, makes your muscles work harder and it can tend to make you more sedentary, exercising less and therefore having a corresponding reduction in the tone of all the muscles. You will probably know if you are overweight as you will almost certainly have noticed the pounds you have gained in the mirror.
For some people, however, it can be difficult to know whether you are carrying more weight than you should. This is not helped by the fact that weight is a complex calculation – 150 pounds may be a healthy weight for one person but a very unhealthy weight for a shorter one. The BMI calculator will tell you if you are overweight for your height.
People who carry more weight tend to have thicker, fattier necks than their thinner counterparts. This will lead to a narrowing of the airway and make it more difficult for the person to breathe while they are asleep. If you are carrying more weight than you should or if you have noticed a correlation between your weight gain and snoring you might want to consider losing weight. You may find that this will help stop your snoring problem from escalating out of control. It will, of course, have many other positive side effects as well.
4. You have taken medicine which causes snoring
Earlier we talked about the link between alcohol intake and snoring. Unfortunately some medications have the same effect on the body’s tissues; that is, they act as soporifics which make you drowsy and, at the same time, relaxants which cause a temporary relaxation of the soft palate and other tissues around the nose, mouth and neck. This relaxation causes a narrowing of the airway and you start to snore.
If you noticed an increase in your snoring after you started taking prescription medication you should speak to your doctor about potential ways to resolve the issue. However, it is vital that you do not stop taking the medication without getting the go ahead from your doctor first – it was prescribed to you for a reason. Your doctor may be able to prescribe an alternative drug or point you in the direction of a stop snoring aid that will help you get both a good night’s sleep and the benefit of your medicine.
3. You are a smoker
If you find that you cannot give up on your nicotine habit you may notice that, over the years, you start to snore. Perhaps only a little at first but more and more as the years go by. Sadly smoking, although pleasant and pleasurable for the smoker, is deeply unhealthy on a number of levels. The more a person smokes the more they irritate the lining of their airways, this can cause the flow of air into the body to suffer from turbulence. This turbulence will, in turn, cause the soft tissues to vibrate which causes snoring.
In case you think this is just another ‘stop smoking’ guilt trip, studies have shown that smoking increases the likelihood that you will snore by more than two times.
Sadly, it is not just smokers who need to worry about the impact of their vice on their breathing. The dangers of passive smoking have long been understood and it appears that exposure to second hand smoke can increase the risk of snoring.
If you enjoy your cigarettes but have noticed that you or your partner has already started to snore, you may need to think very seriously about quitting. Giving up on your cigarettes will not fix the scarring to the airways and resolve the problems overnight but it will help make you healthier and, over time, your snoring should reduce. Quitting an addictive substance such as nicotine is difficult but the benefits are substantial.
2. You are sick
Sometimes even non habitual snorers can start to sound like a motorcycle at night. This can often happen if they come down with something like a bad virus or the flu, both of which cause nasal congestion and other breathing difficulties. If you have read the earlier parts of this article you will know that snoring happens when airflow is impeded and that is exactly what happens when you have a blocked up nose.
If such an attack of snoring only happens every now and then you probably have very little to be worried about. If, however, you start to snore every time you get a little congested then you may well develop a chronic snoring problem later in life as some of the other factors on this page start to take hold – when you put on weight or have to take certain medication, for example.
In the short term, the best thing you can do to prevent sickness related snoring is to take the necessary medication to resolve the illness as quickly as possible. Be sure to drink lots of clear fluids to help prevent the buildup of mucous blockages and make sure that you get plenty of Vitamin C to stave off a further illness.
1. You have sleep apnea
Sometimes snoring is not just snoring it is a symptom of a potentially dangerous problem known as sleep apnea. This is a condition where your breathing during sleep is interrupted and you do not get enough oxygen to your system. Basically sleep apnea causes the sufferer’s breathing to stop and start. There are two separate types know as obstructive and central. Obstructive sleep apnea happens if the sufferer’s throat muscles relax too much and obstruct the airway, the obstruction causes loud uneven snores which then stop when the breathing ceases and start up again louder than ever when the person is able to take a breath once again. Central sleep apnea by contrast is caused by a failure of the sufferer’s brain to send the correct signals to the body to cause it to breathe and can often come about as a side effect of heart or stroke problems. Many sufferers are unaware that they have sleep apnea and may wonder why they feel tired when they are getting a full night’s sleep. The answer is, of course, that they never reach a truly deep, restorative sleep because they keep waking up momentarily as their breathing is interrupted. Sometimes the first time someone becomes aware that they might be suffering from sleep apnea is when a frustrated and sleep deprived partner insists that they visit the doctor.
Obstructive sleep apnea may be exacerbated by many of the causes on this list. Sufferers are best advised to avoid drinking a lot of alcohol or smoking and should aim to lose weight. For some people this will be enough to stop the snoring. Others might require a breathing machine called CPAP which is worn over the mouth and nose and provides a continuous supply of slightly pressured air through the night – the pressure is just enough to stop the airway collapsing. Other mechanical alternatives are available if this is not suitable for you and, if those fail a doctor may suggest surgery to reshape the soft tissue in your throat. Treatment for central sleep apnea varies and depends to a great extent on the cause behind it.
Snoring is often treated as a bit of a joke – something to laugh at and about. The thing is, however, if you are a snorer or the partner of a snorer it is no laughing matter. Both parties will find that their lives are disrupted by lack of sleep and often relationships suffer as the partner retreats to another room in the hope of getting at least a few hours uninterrupted sleep.
If snoring is a problem for you the very best thing you can do – regardless of why you snore – is cut down on the cigarettes and alcohol and make sure that you maintain your BMI within a healthy range. For some people these steps will cure them of snoring for the time being. For others whose snoring is due to an excess of soft tissue in the mouth, a deviated septum or sleep apnea may find that steps taken to reduce weight and maintain a healthier lifestyle will help to ameliorate the severity of the snoring.
For those whose snoring has a physical as opposed to a lifestyle cause a doctor may be able to recommend a sleeping device such as a jaw strap or a CPAP machine to help maintain an open airway and bring an end to the nightly misery that can come with extreme snoring.