Snoring Facts – How Snoring Affects Your Health & Overall Well-Being

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Snoring is a very common condition that affects people of all ages and walks of life. It’s more prevalent in men than in women, and more likely to occur in adults 20 years of age and older. Research suggests that 24% of men and 13% of women in the US experience chronic snoring. Moreover, chronic snoring has been proven to worsen as we grow older. It’s estimated that 60% of men and 40% of women over the age of 60 suffer from chronic snoring.

As snoring is not generally seen as a serious or even life-threatening condition, many people underestimate how snoring affects your health and overall well-being. Disrupting your ability to reach and maintain the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase of sleep is one of the most common side-effects of chronic snoring. REM sleep is widely considered as being biologically necessary for the wellbeing and survival of all mammals.

But maybe the most important snoring facts is from recent studies that associate snoring with more serious diseases and conditions. Sleep apnea, for example, is a condition that can be life-threatening and has been linked to snoring. In addition, many studies have demonstrated that severe snoring has a strong correlation certain heart conditions.

Causes and Symptoms

Snoring is a multifactorial condition, which means that it is not easy to point at one cause and normally the treatment is complicated and hard to treat. Some of the most common causes of snoring are listed below:

  • Obstruction of nasal airway: In these cases, snoring is the result of a form of nasal obstruction. It could be due to allergies, which is why some people only snore during the allergy season. Getting the flu, a cold or any seasonal disease that compromises the airflow is also a common cause of temporal snoring. Sinus infections can provoke snoring as well. This is the most common cause of snoring in children, as they are very susceptible to infections in the nasal sinus. Additionally, deformities in the nose, such as deviated septum as a result of a bone fracture, or nasal polyps can obstruct the nose and trigger snoring.
  • Poor muscle tone in tongue and throat: If the tongue or throat muscles are too relaxed, they can descend from their normal position and constrict the airflow when breathing. Some substances such as alcohol and sleeping pills have a hyper-relaxation effect on the body that leads to a very deep sleep, which can increase the likelihood of snoring. Moreover, a loss of general muscle tone as a result of normal ageing causes these muscles to relax, which is why snoring occurs more often as we age.
  • Obstructive tissue in the throat: In some cases, the nose way may be perfectly fine, and the cause of snoring is due to an obstruction in the throat. Children with big tonsils can snore in response to the throat obstruction. Additionally, obesity is linked snoring as excess adipose tissue (fat) increases the likelihood of an obstruction in the throat.
  • Soft palate or uvula: The palate and uvula falling back during sleep can also obstruct airflow through the throat. Some throat infection may lead to uvula inflammation, which leads to snoring.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): Snoring and OSA are very much related. It is characterized by repetitive episodes of shallow or paused breathing during sleep, despite the effort to breathe, and is usually associated with a reduction in blood oxygen saturation. These episodes of decreased breathing, called “apneas” (literally, “without breath”), typically last 20 to 40 seconds. However, OSA can be very serious and life-threatening condition, which requires medical treatment and constant monitoring. Some studies suggest that snoring can lead to OSA, especially when other factors exist such as being male, obese and/or of African-American or Latin-American descent.
  • Sleeping position: The position in which we sleep can lead to snoring. If you sleep on your back, your airway more likely to become obstructed with your tongue, palate, or uvula. Additionally, a deviated septum can cause snoring if we sleep on our side.
  • Fatigue: Sleep deprivation, stress and physical exhausting can also lead to snoring.
  • Smoking: Smoking frequently can irritate, dry and even swell areas of the airway, which can lead to snoring.

Many people are not aware when they snore until they are told they were snoring. However, there are some symptoms to look for if you live alone, and are trying to determine if you’ve been snoring:

  • A sore throat: Waking up with a sore throat could be a sign that you have been snoring during the night.
  • Waking up in the middle of the night: Snoring can disrupt our sleep, resulting in waking up once or several times while sleeping.
  • Waking up without energy: Waking up feeling fatigued or drowsy could be a symptom of a restless night, which may have been caused by snoring.
  • Mood changes: As a result of lack of good sleep, one can be grumpy, sad or even depressed during the day.
  • Concentration and memory problems: Lack of rest can affect your cognitive skills. Having a short memory and getting easily distracted are related to rest deprivation, could be a cause of snoring.
  • A decrease of libido: Being tired and fatigued due to a restless night can also decrease the sex drive in men.

Aside from the physical symptoms that may signal that you’re snoring, there are many devices and mobile applications that track your sleep through measuring your movements while sleeping, and any noises that may resemble snoring.

Treatments

As it was mentioned before, multiple factors are involved in snoring, and thus, treatments to improve this condition are not very effective and not applicable for all cases. As snoring may be caused by many reasons, a treatment could be effective for some patients but not for others. Below are some of the most effective treatments for snoring:

  • Change your habits: As many multifactorial conditions, snoring can be a signal that you have some unhealthy habits. Smoking and obesity are linked to chronic snoring. Reducing, or quitting smoking altogether can reduce or stop the snoring altogether. Additionally, taking action to reducing your body fat percentage can help reduce chronic snoring.
  • Orthopedic pillows: A less intrusive treatment for snoring, orthopedic pillows have been proven to reduce or stop snoring through better support of the head and neck, which reduces jaw movement and avoids the obstruction of the airway.
  • Dental devices: Mouth guards or orthodontic retainers used during sleep reduce jaw movement, which helps maintain an open airway. Research shows that these devices are an effective treatment option for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Positive airway pressure: Often used to control sleep apnea, devices that produce positive airway pressure is a more intrusive method of treatment that is commonly used for people who suffer from sleep apnea. These devices produce a controlled stream of air a through a flexible hose attached to a mask that can be worn over the nose, mouth, or both.
  • Surgery: Snoring can be corrected through surgical procedures to widen the airway. This is accomplished through identifying and removing or reducing any tissue responsible for obstructing the airflow. These surgeries may be done in the nasal septum to correct deviations in the nose to eliminate polyps, in the palate or uvula to make them thicker or smaller, or in the throat to remove tonsils and other obstructive tissue. Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a relatively new surgical treatment for snoring. This treatment applies radiofrequency energy and heat (between 77 °C and 85 °C) to the soften the tissue at the back of the throat, such as the soft palate and uvula, causing scarring of the tissue beneath the skin. Bipolar radiofrequency ablation, a technique used to remove tonsils, is also used for the treatment of snoring. This surgery is considered as less desired by most as the treatment as it is very invasive, not as effective as other less intrusive treatments, and can sometimes cause uncomfortable side effects.
  • Medication: Domperidone and pseudoephedrine are used as a treatment for snoring in with very promising results.
  • Other treatments: There are many over-the-counter treatments for snoring such as nasal sprays, strips, nasal clips or lubricants for the airway that can help reduce or eliminate snoring. However, consumers should be aware that many of these products have few or any supporting scientific evidence to validate their claim of effectiveness.

Perspectives for snorers

Snoring in and of itself is not generally a dangerous affliction. However, snoring can lead to more serious health problems such as obstructive sleep apnea, heart disease and stroke. Around 35% of snorers suffer from heart attacks and 65% from strokes.

In conclusion, chronic snoring should not be taken lightly and must be treated in order to avoid further complications.