Did you know that almost everyone is prone to snore at one point in their lives? Habitual snoring occurs in around 40% of adult women and 57% of adult men.
But, snoring is most often caused by a sleep disorder called sleep apnea, which greatly disrupts sleep cycles and can be the catalyst for a number of different health issues.
Why Do People Snore?
Snoring can also be related to a person’s body weight, anatomical structure or can even be associated with unhealthy lifestyle habits such as drinking, smoking and overeating. Sleeping in an awkward position that doesn’t allow for sufficient airflow has also been a snoring trigger for a lot of people. The nuances surrounding snoring and sleep disorders are so vast, that it’s hard to categorise or correctly identify symptoms.
In this article, we will look at some of the most common causes of snoring and provide you with some of the best tried and tested anecdotes to treat sleep disorders.
What are The Most Common Causes of Snoring?
The direct cause of snoring is quite simple. It’s down to an obstruction in airflow between your nose, throat and mouth. Airways become narrowed or partially blocked causing the upper airway to vibrate. This is what makes the sound that we so notoriously associated with snoring.
Having a chronically narrowed or blocked airway whilst sleeping can be down to a variety of reasons which we will outline below.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Not all snorers have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), but studies have shown that the vast majority of people with (OSA) tend to snore.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a widespread sleep disorder that commonly goes undiagnosed. It’s often characterised by intermittent gaps in a person’s breathing cycles and is due to the airways partially or completely collapsing during sleep.
People that have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea tend to snore very loudly with noticeable silent breaks when the airway has collapsed and breathing stops. Once breathing has been resumed it can be alarming and can sound like a sharp gasp or choking.
OSA is widely associated with depression, high blood pressure and heart disease which can all be a result of bad lifestyle choices.
The best way to combat OSA is to see a medical professional and attend a sleep clinic where your sleep-wake cycle can be studied and treated.
Alcohol & Sedative Medication
We all know that alcohol induces sleep by relaxing the mind with its sedative properties.
It allows you to fall asleep more quickly but studies have shown that it also disrupts REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and causes disturbances to the sleep/wake cycle. As the liver’s enzymes metabolise alcohol, the effects wear off and dehydration sets in, causing the body to wake up.
Sedatives also work in the same way by artificially relaxing your muscles and producing melatonin in the brain. Melatonin is a natural sleep chemical that the body produces to promote natural sleep.
But when the body’s chemistry is altered by taking a sedative, it can have side effects including sleep apnea and snoring.
We all know that smoking isn’t good for our health in general.
But smoking is one of the worst things that snorers can do. It’s mainly down to the upper airways becoming inflamed due to the harmful chemicals within the smoke. Stopping smoking has been proven to reduce sleep disorders including snoring and sleep apnea but it does take time for the body to heal and adjust.
A recent study showed that snoring rates persisted to be elevated in people who recently quit but within four years it matched the rates seen in people who had never smoked.
Head & Neck Anatomy
The anatomy of the head and neck play an important role in sleep disorders.
People who suffer from a deviated septum are much more likely to show symptoms of snoring because the walls of the nostrils are skewed to one side and thus cut off valuable breathing space.
Growths such as polyps can also obstruct airways, as well as anatomical features such as a large tongue or tonsils, can also aggregate airflow and cause snoring. Surgery and dental devices can be harnessed to aid in the recovery of such afflictions but research is still needed to measure its effectiveness in sufferers of constructive sleep apnea.
Chronic Nasal Congestion
Chronic nasal congestion is common in people who suffer from sinus issues. Symptoms can persist for years and cause real problems with people’s sleep cycles.
It’s a common issue that causes the airways in the nose and throat to collapse during the night. Allergies and infections also play an important role in the occurrence of chronic nasal congestion and vastly increase the likelihood of loud or disruptive snoring.
A study of middle-aged adults found that those who demonstrated that they encountered nasal congestion at night “always” or “almost always” were three times more likely to be habitual snorers.
The supine position or sleeping on your back is way more likely to block your airways and generate the sensation of snoring.
This is because gravity pulls the tissues surrounding your airways downwards when you are sleeping. This narrows the airways and produces a noticeable collapse.
Sleeping on your side in the lateral position has been proven to reduce the intensity and frequency of snoring because more air is passed through the throat and nose and is less likely to be obstructed by gravitational pull.
Snoring can be notoriously damaging to both the listener and the sufferer. Identifying the underlying causes of snoring will help you and your doctor to develop an effective treatment plan.
Doing so will give you the best chance of combating sleep disorders such as constructive sleep apnea and associated snoring. The more information that can be collected about your condition, the easier it will be for doctors to diagnose and treat any underlying issues.
If you need any more information regarding snoring, sleep apnea or sleep disorders, please see the resources we’ve outlined below.