Overview of snoring
Snoring occurs when you cannot move air freely through your nose and throat during sleep. This vibrates the nearby tissues, causing the familiar snoring. People who snore often have too much nasal and throat tissue or “flabby” tissue that is more prone to vibrating. The position of the tongue can also delay smooth breathing.
If you snore regularly at night, it can disrupt the quality of your sleep, leading to daytime fatigue, irritability, and increased health problems. And if your snoring is keeping your partner awake, it can also create significant relationship problems. Sleeping in separate rooms is not the only remedy for snoring.
Types of snoring
Nose based snoring
Blocked nostrils as a result of a deviated septum or some physical obstruction in the nose can lead to blocked airways, resulting in nasal snoring.
Other causes include allergies to pets and dust, a stiff nose, a cold, or if you are using certain types of medications.
This kind of snoring can be treated in several ways depending on what causes it:
- Deviated septums may require you to undergo surgery.
- If snoring is caused as a result of dust allergy, keeping your home neat and tidy will cure it.
- Similarly, quitting smoking, or using nasal dilator strips, or a nasal rinse is effective against snoring caused due to cold or stiffness.
Mouth based snoring
When a person breathes through their mouth rather than their nose while sleeping, it results in mouth snoring.
Blocked nasal passages, enlarged tonsils or weak palatal tissue can be the causes of this type of snoring. If you are unable to breathe through your nose at night due to a blockage, this causes you to breathe through your mouth, which produces a vibration of the tissues, hence the snoring sound.
Essentially, a nasal snorer has a small chance of turning into a mouth snorer if his nasal passages become severely blocked. Although breathing is done through the mouth, this can lead to infections, as the nose does not filter the air that passes through.
To prevent this type of snoring, you can use devices such as adhesive tape specially designed for this purpose, or mouth guards that can help you keep your mouth closed.
This type of snoring occurs because the tongue gets too relaxed, particularly when we lie down on our back, thus blocking the airflow into the lungs. As a result, it becomes difficult to breathe, thereby causing snoring.
Tongue-based snoring may occur in people who love to drink alcohol or use sleep medication. Excessive fat around the neck may also be a cause of tongue-based snoring.
Anti-snoring pillows and backpacks are useful ways of preventing this kind of snoring. They keep you on your side, preventing you from turning on your back, thus avoiding difficulty in breathing.
Snoring mouthpieces or mandibular advancement devices are specially designed to be used as a remedy for tongue snorers. It helps move your jaws forward, thus preventing the tongue from blocking the back of your throat, and ensure uninterrupted breathing.
What causes snoring?
Obesity, pregnancy and genetic factors
People who are over heavy, obese or pregnant often have extra bulky throat tissue. Genetic factors that can cause snoring contain extra throat tissue as well as enlarged tonsils, large adenoids, long soft palate or long uvula.
Allergies, congestion and certain nasal structures
Anything that stops you from breathing through your nose can cause you to snore. This can include congestion from a cold or flu, allergies or malformations of the nose such as a deviated septum.
Alcohol, smoking, ageing, and drugs
You may snore when your throat or tongue muscles are tranquil. Materials that can relax these muscles may cause you to snore. This includes alcohol, muscle relaxants and other medications. Normal ageing and the prolonged belongings of smoking can also relax your throat and tongue muscles.
Symptoms of snoring
The primary symptom is unique – the often loud, harsh or hoarse noises that you make while you are asleep. Other symptoms may comprise waking up with a sore throat or dry mouth.
If you have any of the next symptoms you may have sleep apnea:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Choking or gasping while you sleep
- Pauses in breathing
- Morning headaches
- Difficulty concentrating
- Moodiness, irritability or depression
- Frequent need to urinate during the night
During the exam, the doctor will ask about your symptoms and use a light to check the back of your throat for redness, swelling, and white patches. The doctor may also feel the sides of your neck to see if you have swollen glands.
If your doctor suspects that you have strep throat, they will do a throat culture to diagnose it. The doctor will swab the back of your throat and collect a sample to test for strep bacteria. With a rapid strep test, your doctor will get results in minutes.
To confirm the diagnosis, the sample will be sent to a laboratory for analysis. A lab test takes one to two days, but it can definitely show that you have strep throat.
The goals for the treatment may be difficult to determine. Successful treatment should also include the goal of achieving a successful night’s sleep for the bed partner or roommate. This makes the treatment of snoring a challenge. For example, someone may have a successful treatment if his or her snoring decreases from a jackhammer level to that of a passing truck. If their bed partner is happy, then the snoring problem is “cured.” However, another person whose snoring decreases from a mild sound to the level of heavy breathing may still have an unhappy bed partner.
Most procedures to treat snoring focus on reducing flapping or movement of the soft palate (roof of the mouth). This addresses snoring from palatal flapping. If it originates behind the tongue or on the sidewalls of the throat, palatal procedures will be less effective.
It is advisable to look critically at the “success” reports of various treatments. However, the bed partner (or snorer) still has to leave the room one night a week. It is important to know what the expectations of a “cure” are before considering any treatment.
You can take medicine to relieve a sore throat or to treat the underlying cause.
Over-the-counter medications that relieve a sore throat include:
- Acetaminophen (tylenol)
- Ibuprofen (advil, motrin)
Don’t give aspirin to children and teenagers, as it’s been linked to a rare but serious condition called Reye’s syndrome.
You can also use one or more of these treatments, which work directly on the pain of a sore throat:
- Sore throat spray that contains a numbing antiseptic like phenol, or a cooling ingredient like menthol or eucalyptus
- Throat lozenges
- Cough syrup
Snoring risk factors
Although anyone can get a sore throat, a few factors make you more susceptible, including:
- Age. Children and teens are most likely to develop sore throats. Children ages 3 to 15 are also more likely to have strep throat, the most common bacterial infection associated with a sore throat.
- Exposure to tobacco smoke. Smoking and secondhand smoke can irritate the throat. The use of tobacco products also increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, throat and voice box.
- Exposure to chemical irritants. Airborne particles from burning fossil fuels and common household chemicals can cause a sore throat.
- Chronic or frequent sinus infections. Drainage from the nose can irritate the throat or spread an infection.
- Weakened immunity. You’re more susceptible to infections in general if your resistance is low. Common causes of lowered immunity include HIV, diabetes, treatment with steroids or chemotherapy drugs, stress, fatigue, and poor diet.
The best way to prevent sore throats is to avoid the germs that cause them and practice good hygiene. Follow these tips and teach your child to do the same:
- Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, especially after using the toilet, before eating, and after sneezing or coughing.
- Avoid sharing food, drinking glasses or utensils.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue and throw it away. When necessary, sneeze into your elbow.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitisers as an alternative to washing hands when soap and water aren’t available.
- Avoid touching public phones or drinking fountains with your mouth.
- Regularly clean telephones, TV remotes and computer keyboards with sanitizing cleanser. When you travel, clean phones and remotes in your hotel room.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.