Nearly everyone snores at some point in their life, but it becomes more common as we age. Our muscles become increasingly flabby and loose, so they are easier triggered into vibration.
What Causes the Snoring Sound?
Snoring is produced by vibration of various soft tissues in the airways. Vibrations are caused by the air that tries to pass through a narrower passage than when we are awake. Similarly as the air passing your narrowed lips make a sound when you whistle, or when you press the end of the watering hose and the water bursts through the narrow opening, instead of simply flawing. But, why is it so at night, specifically when we fall asleep?
As our whole body, the airway muscles also relax at sleep, so they make the pathway for the air just slightly tighter. If these muscles are weakened and too relaxed and there is an additional airway obstruction, partial of full, snoring will occur as air can’t freely flaw, pressured, it will irritate the soft tissues and cause them to vibrate. This will make the sound.
Is the Throat Always the Culprit? When the Causes of Snoring Are More Serious…
No. As a matter of fact, there are four different places when the vibration occurs, and according to these, snoring is classified as:
-Nasal snoring will happen if the passages are not free, but somehow blocked. It can be because a simple cold, and your nose is stuffed, or because an allergy. It can be a deviated septum, as in my husband’s nose, for years, before he went “under the knife”. He still snores, though 😉 Anyway, the air will try to find its way and go through that little pathway that’s still free. Causing the sound we all dislike.
-A mouth snorer also has blocked nasal air passages, but, more likely, completely, so he will be unable to use his nose, but will breathe through his open mouth. This will cause the vibration of soft tissues in the mouth and the sound. Sometimes, enlarged tonsils are also involved.
–Tongue snoring has more to do with muscles, as the tongue is too relaxed-that much that they fall back and block the airflow to the lungs. It will happen when we are sleeping on our back and will produce mostly periodical, various high pitched sounds.
-The worst type, either for the listener, or for yourself is the throat snoring. For the listener, as this one is the loudest one and for you because it is the most alarming one. The tissues and the muscles of the throat are too relaxed and the walls of the throat can “collapse” causing an obstruction for the air.
Throat snoring is associated with Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which can be a serious threat to your health. The breathing during sleep stops for 10 or even more seconds, and you suddenly wake up, gasping for air. Some might even be choking, but you always wake up.
It happens because your brain senses the excessive carbon dioxide build-up due to the decreased oxygen intake and it wakes you up to reopen your airway. It can occur several times during the night, in any position of the body, but the loudest sounds are produced lying on back.
Besides the possible night time sweating, the one sign that you can’t miss is the very loud sound and the periods of non-breathing during the sleep (which will notice your partner, as you most likely won’t be aware of it)
With this one, however, the problems do not stop at snoring, or in the morning. An OSA sufferer will have a sore throat and dry mouth in the morning, be excessively sleepy at day, have morning headaches, high blood pressure and difficulties to concentrate.
If all the other types are mostly annoying, but not really dangerous, medical attention is essential with this type of snoring, as it may lead even to heart attack, if not treated.
This narrowing, or obstruction of airways may be a result of too relaxed tissues, of excess fat around the neck that will pressure the throat tissues, of a layer of mucus in case of allergy or cold, of an uvula which is lowered or too long, covering the airways to the lungs.
Snoring can damages the muscles which will lead to their weakening causing so more airway narrowing. It is easy to see how snoring will worsen, unless treated.
Also, a person may produce a variety of sounds, as more than one area may be involved in airflow obstruction.
According to American Academy of Sleep Medicine, about 4% of men and 2% of women have obstructive sleep apnea, and millions more remain undiagnosed.
Additional Causes of Snoring in Women
Men DO snore more than women. It doesn’t mean, however, that women don’t snore. Men are simply born with narrower pathways for air and therefore more susceptible to snoring. “About 40 percent of adult men and 24 percent of adult women are habitual snorers”
Menopause is the gamechanger, as it brings more masculine characteristics into women’s bodies. Their muscles also diminish, so they are more likely to be excessively relaxed and cause snoring. Another reason is putting on some weight, which means more pressure on soft tissues.
Any Stop-Snoring Home Remedies?
Changes in some habits may bring the so desired silence into your bedroom.
-watch your diet, at least several hours before you go to bed. Try limiting your evening meals to smaller ones and avoid diary products, as these can enhance snoring, by adding a thin film of mucus to the tissue of the throat, which will cause irritation.
-avoid any alcohol before bed, as it will relax the muscles that support the airways to be open.
-if you snore on your back, try side sleeping. If you turn back in your sleep, try a full body pillow which won’t allow you to land on your back. There are recommendations of sawing a tennis ball onto the back of your pyjama to make lying on back uncomfortable, but, why making yourself uncomfortable, if you can do it in a comfortable way.
-lose weight if you are overweight, as even a small amount of fat can produce additional pressure on your airways.
-check with your doctor whether you take a medication that increase muscle relaxation, which is the basic cause of snoring
-do not take sleeping pills and sedatives, they will only worsen the problem
-inhale essential oils, like eucalyptus and peppermint to break up the mucus if formed in your throat or your sinuses.
-use a neti pot to clear you nasal pathways. Even it is a bit tricky the first time, you can quickly get the hang of it and it provides wonderfully clean airways in the nose.
-stop smoking-tobacco smoke is one of the irritants of the mucous membranes in the throat, leading to swelling of the throat, thus narrowing the airway.
Tobacco smoke irritates mucous membranes, so your throat swells, narrowing the airway. Smokers also have more problems with nasal congestion. That goes for electronic cigarettes, too.
-exercise regularly-even if you do exercises for your other parts of body, the regular exercise will in time strengthen your neck and throat muscles, as well, reducing the risks of snoring.
-do specific throat and tongue exercises, even sing, to strengthen these specific muscles and prevent them from excessive relaxing. You can find a great description and explanation of the exercises here. They are simple and anyone can do them.
Any Devices to Stop Snoring?
-a humidifier, if the air in your space is dry. A dry air will also dry out your nose and throat, which will trigger snoring, so, it is always a good idea to humidify the air in the space you are, not only at night, but during the day, as well. A lubricated throat will less likely vibrate to cause sound.
-little strips for nose (external nasal dilators) are designed to pull your nostrils open, preventing a collapse and increasing the airflow. These will work, if your snoring is caused by a nasal congestion, like when you have a cold or allergies
-A neti pot can also help, rinsing out the nasal passages with a salt-water solution.
-Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is said to be for now the best we have for sleep apnea. This CPAP device is made as a mask, which should be worn over the nose and face during sleep. The mask has a long flexible pipe which is connected to a pump. This will constantly push air into the nasal passages, thus keeping the airway open. Some people find it uncomfortable, however, and some are uncomfortable being seen with it by their partner.
-In someone with sleep apnea who either doesn’t respond to or doesn’t tolerate treatment with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), a type of mouthguard, like SnoreMD that moves the lower jaw a bit forward, can be helpful.
-sometimes, a doctor will advise a surgery, either to remove a deviated septum, or other nasal obstruction, or soft palate surgery, to stiffen the soft palate and thus limit the vibration that would cause snoring.
Sleeping With a Snorer, or Being the Snorer to Sleep With…
I used to find really helpful to go to bed before my husband does, as this way I mostly fell asleep by the time he started snoring. Since his deviated septum having been corrected, he did snore significantly less, but, he still did. As he tends to snore more when on his back, we use a full body pillow, to keep him on his side (I don’t like the ball-on-the-back idea), and it does help.
Since we aged a bit, we now faced a new problem, as apparently I started to snore, which I was not aware of at all.
He, on the other hand, did not want to hurt my feelings, he says, so did not tell me up to recently. He tried to move me in my sleep, wake me just a bit, to stop me from snoring, even shaked me a few times, he said, but I usually started all over again.
As there were no signs of possible improvement, he had no choice, but to sat with me with our usual cup of coffee after breakfast (he makes the best coffee ever), and talk to me about it.
He did it almost apologizing that he brings it up and tried very hard so I do understand he is not attacking me, has no problems with me, but with the snoring that keeps him awake. So, let’s find out what we can do, he suggested.
What to Do, When You Find Out You Are the One Who Snores?
Even after such a loving and caring approach, I was, well, shocked, as a minimum. If I’ll be honest, besides feeling deeply ashamed, I also felt a little bit hurt, as well. As we were in the reversed situation some years ago, I could imagine what he’s been through and it kind of made me feel guilty additionally.
Still, when I “recovered” from the initial shock, I started a thorough search. That’s how I found the exercises and started doing them, especially the breathing through nose, as we realized that my snoring comes from my sinus problems.
I do have a neti pot, which I’m very fond of, as I couldn’t imagine before that you can have so cleared airways, before I started using it 2-3 times a week.
The result? We do sleep much better, with less snoring-that much less, than we do not wake each other up with it, at all.
Did I believe my husband when he said I don’t snore anymore? Well, I did, with gratitude, but, just in case, I still check it with the Sleep Cycle application (there are many more you can choose from). It is free for basic use, which is quite enough to determine how you sleep and whether you snore or not.
Snoring is not only annoying, whether you are the listener or the snorer, but it is not always harmless for one’s health. If you tried out everything you can and it did not work, or if you have symptoms as in obstructive sleep apnea, as described above, pay a visit to your doctor. Both you and your partner deserve a good, healthy night of sleep, every night.
Do you snore? Or your partner? Do you know someone who used to snore but managed to decrease it to a bearable level? What are your thoughts on snoring? If your partner were snoring, what would you do? And what if you were? Let me know in the comments below. I’ll appreciate it and I’m sure someone will learn from your words.
And, as always, feel free to reach out should you have questions and I’ll be happy to give you an answer to the best of my knowledge.
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