Snoring is defined as any 'turbulent' airflow between the nose and upper throat. The snoring or grunting noise heard indicates that there is a blockage somewhere in the air passages. The majority of people snore occasionally, but if snoring happens regularly, it can affect the quantity and quality of your sleep, and affect that of others too. Snoring can lead to sleep deprivation, daytime fatigue, irritability, and increased health problems.
What Causes Snoring?
Snoring occurs when the air is unable to move freely through your nose and mouth during sleep. This is usually caused by the narrowing of your airway, often as a result of poor sleep posture or abnormalities of the soft tissues in your throat. It's when the air is flowing through your nose and your mouth is being physically obstructed, so your breathing is affected and you create the sound of snoring.
Your air flow can be obstructed for a variety of reasons, including:
- Obstructed Nasal Airways: Some people may only snore during allergy season or when suffering from a sinus infection. Deformities of the nose, such as a deviated septum that separates the nostrils, or nasal polyps, can cause an obstruction.
- Poor muscle tone in the throat and tongue: If the tongue and throat muscles are too relaxed, they will 'collapse' and fall backwards into the airway. This can happen due to deep sleep, alcohol consumption, and taking some types of medication to aid sleep.
- Bulky throat tissue: Bulky throat tissue can be a result of being overweight. Children with large tonsils and adenoids can also be prone to snoring.
- Long, soft palate and/or uvula: A long, soft palate or a long uvula (the dangling tissue at the back of the mouth) can narrow the opening from the nose to the throat. Snoring occurs when these structures vibrate and bump against one another, resulting in the airway becoming obstructed.
What are the Health Risks Associated with Snoring?
Habitual snorers can be at risk of developing serious health issues, including sleep apnoea (1), which can create many problems, including:
- Heart Disease
- GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)
- Nocturia (urination during the night)
- Less Sexual Satisfaction
- Foetal Complications
- Excess Weight
Can Snoring be Cured?
Everybody snores for different reasons so, before a cure can be found, the cause must be identified.
It's recommended that you note how you sleep and snore. Sleep positions reveal a lot, and figuring out how you snore can reveal why you snore. Once you have identified the cause of your snoring, you can begin to find a cure:
- Closed-mouth snoring may indicate an issue with your tongue.
- Open-mouth snoring may be related to the tissues in your throat.
- Snoring when sleeping on your back is probably mild-snoring which may be cured by making improvements to your sleep and lifestyle habits.
- Snoring in all sleep positions though may mean that your snoring is more severe, and could require more comprehensive treatment.
There are a number of proven techniques that can help you to eliminate snoring, but it may require some patience, lifestyle changes, as well as some trial and error to find the successful remedy for you.
How to Stop Snoring Naturally.
The following lifestyle changes may help you to combat snoring:
- Sleep on your side: Avoid sleeping on your back as gravity makes it more likely for your tongue and soft tissues to drop and obstruct your airway.
- Lose excess weight: Losing excess weight can decrease, or even stop, snoring as you're reducing the fatty tissue at the back of your throat.
- Avoid alcohol late in the evening: Alcohol relaxes the muscles in the throat and interferes with breathing.
- Take more exercise: Exercise tones your throat muscles, as well as improving your overall health, which results in less snoring.
- Stop Smoking: Smoking irritates the membranes in the nose and throat, which leads to your airways becoming blocked.
- Establish Regular Sleep Patterns: Creating a bedtime routine may help you sleep better and minimise snoring.
Bedtime Tips to Help Stop Snoring:
- Clear nasal passages: Having a blocked nose before bed makes inhalation difficult which causes a vacuum in your throat, which leads to snoring. To help you breathe more easily whilst asleep, try nasal decongestants or nasal strips.
- Use a humidifier in your bedroom: A humidifier will keep the air in your bedroom moist-dry air can irritate the membranes in your nose and throat, causing them to swell and become congested.
- Elevate your head when sleeping: Using a higher pillow to elevate your head by four inches when asleep, may ease breathing by encouraging your tongue and jaw into a more forward position.
- Avoid Caffeine and Heavy Meals Too Close to Bedtime: By avoiding caffeine and heavy meals in the couple of hours before bed encourages your body to relax and wind-down, and to release sleep-inducing melatonin.
When Should You Visit Your GP?
If the self-help tips have been unsuccessful, there are a number of medical cures and treatments that may be beneficial. New advances in the treatment of snoring means that devices are becoming more effective and comfortable.
If you feel that you may need professional advice, it is highly recommended that you consult your GP in the first instance, they may refer you onto a specialist.
Sometimes snoring may be a sign of a more serious condition. Read more about consulting your GP (2).