Snoring is the noise produced during sleep by vibrations of the soft tissues at the back of your nose and throat. The noise is created by turbulent flow of air through narrowed air passages.
In general and in most cases, snoring has no medical significance unless it keeps you or others from sleeping.
However, a more serious problem related to snoring can occur when those same soft tissues block the air passages at the back of the throat while you are sleeping. This interferes with the ability to breathe. This condition is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and it can directly affect your health.
Obstructive sleep apnea is an extreme form of snoring in which your upper airway closes while you are asleep, causing an obstruction that prevents you from breathing for a brief period.
- The soft tissues of the throat, your soft palate, and the tongue collapse onto the back wall of the upper airway, forming a blockage that prevents air from entering your lungs.
- The negative pressure of inhaling pulls harder on your soft tissues, sealing the airway even more tightly.
- To breathe and get air to your lungs, you must awaken or arouse slightly and createtension in your muscles-including the tongue and throat-and open the airway.
- This process causes a distinctive snorting, startling, and awaking pattern.
- If you have sleep apnea, you begin snoring, then stop breathing for at least 10 seconds (apnea). The apnea temporarily quiets the snoring, after which you awaken with a large snort. This pattern occurs in 95% of people with sleep apnea.
- Each cycle of blockage (apnea) and awakening can last from 20 seconds to 3 minutes, repeating many times throughout the night. Five episodes per hour per night are common. More than 15 episodes per hour per night are the criteria used to diagnosis the condition referred to as sleep apnea.
- Some snorers can have anywhere from 100-600 episodes or cycles of sleeping and waking per night.
- Although people with sleep apnea may be completely unaware of this repeating sleep-snore-apnea-wake pattern, it is very disruptive to normal sleep patterns. Usually, it is the bed partner who is most aware of the condition. Relationships, along with school and job performance, often suffer because of persistent daytime fatigue that develops as a result of continuously disrupted sleep.
- Characteristics of obstructive sleep apnea.
- Movement in the bed when you wake and change position to breathe more easily.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness with napping that often does not fully rest you.
- Mood changes such as anxiety and irritability.
- Decreased sexual drive and depression.
- The repeated cycles of snoring, apnea, and waking that characterize OSA can lead to adverse physical changes and complications such as these:
- High blood pressure.
- Coronary artery disease, heart attacks, strokes.
- Pulmonary hypertension.
- Loss of memory.
- Psychiatric disorders and impotence.
Many remedies are available over-the-counter in drug stores, but most do not help correct snoring or sleep apnea.
- Because you tend to snore more when sleeping on your back, one useful technique is to try to keep from sleeping in that position. One way is to wear a pocket T-shirt backward with a tennis ball in the pocket. You will be less likely to sleep on your back because it is very uncomfortable to sleep on a tennis ball.
- Try losing some weight. As little as 10 pounds might make the difference.
- Avoid alcohol, especially in the 4 hours before going to sleep.
- Avoid using sedatives and narcoticmedications. Alcohol, sedatives, and narcotics cause relaxation of your throat muscles and increase the tendency forairway obstruction related to snoring.