Things you need to know about snoring and how to stop it for good
It is a common problem among all ages and both genders but don’t let snoring ruin your relationship or a good night’s sleep. Learn what causes snoring and how you can put it to bed with our expert advice.
If anyone has ever told you that you snore, be aware that he or she has first very carefully considered the pros and cons of letting you live: next time you get into bed with that person, bear in mind the danger you might be putting yourself in.
But even for those who sleep alone, snoring is no laughing matter. According to the National Sleep Foundation in the US, snorers are more likely to experience thickening or abnormalities in the carotid artery, which can lead to atherosclerosis; a hardening of the arteries that triggers numerous vascular diseases.
Daytime grogginess, irritability and mood swings, problems concentrating and remembering, and an increased likelihood of car or other accidents are just some of the complications arising from self-interrupting, snore-ridden sleep. Since almost half of us regularly snore, isn’t it worth knowing more on what’s likely to be causing it, and what are the most effective measures of putting it to bed?
• The Snoring Symphony
“Snoring occurs as a result of vibrations in the tissues of the soft palate, mouth, nose and throat during sleep, and when the muscles that keep your airways open are relaxed,” says Irish doctor, Pixie McKenna, a GP at the London Clinic.
McKenna says that as the body tries to breathe normally, the pressure to push air in and out causes the tissues to vibrate, and so begins the snoring symphony.
“Anyone can be a snorer. I have to confess to being one, but more men than women snore. This can be down to fewer trigger factors in women, such as being less likely to be heavy drinkers and anatomical differences too. But, that said, given the right variables anyone can snore. Alcohol consumption, excess weight, smoking, nasal problems caused by allergies and medication such as sedatives all can cause you to snore.”
So, just like other maladies, the scale and management of the problem is wholly dependant on the exact cause.
“The first step to tackling snoring is to capture some sound bites. You can do this by downloading a recording app, which will provide you with excellent collateral evidence of snoring, as well as sleep quality and duration,” says McKenna.
However, it may be that some heavy, regular snorers have sleep apnoea, a condition where the airways become completely blocked during sleep; symptoms include large pauses in breathing, and waking-up gasping for air. Regardless of whether it’s snoring or sleep apnoea, the first step is visiting your GP, says McKenna.
• Cause Before Cure
We snore because of a relaxation of muscle tonus — a natural relaxation in muscles. Our airway is basically a muscular tube: it has the ability to close fully, which it does while we swallow.
Many heavy snorers tend to wake themselves frequently in sleep, with the resulting patchy sleep leading to daytime sleepiness.
These people often feel they are very good sleepers as they will sleep for hours if able to, in order to try compensate for poor sleep quality with increased sleep quantity. But, even still, they may confess to not feeling refreshed on waking, no matter how long they sleep for.
When trying to locate the cause or causes for your snoring, be methodical: without identifying where the source of the problem lies, it may prove difficult to cure.
The first thing to consider is body fat, as obese people are very likely to snore. In short, men are more prone to putting on fat in the neck area than women; fat which squashes the throat, leaving less room to breathe. Then there’s the smoking factor, since smokers are twice as likely to snore as non-smokers.
Also, ask your partner to observe if you sleep with your mouth open. We were designed to breathe in through our noses so that the air is filtered, warmed and humidified before entering the lungs. When we breathe through the mouth, however, the air hits the back of the throat head-on and can create enormous vibrations in this soft tissue.
However, in other cases, a snorers’ noise derives from the base of the tongue, in which case a device worn in the mouth that brings the lower jaw, or the mandible, forward may be the best solution.
• Age, Sex & Position
It is advised to take note of your sleeping position. Try elevating your bedhead by a few inches, or else encourage a more comfortable side-sleeping position by using an orthopaedic pillow, such as the Pro-Pil-O. Lying on your back is the worst possible sleeping position because the tongue falls backwards into the throat and partially restricts the air flow, causing turbulence and snoring.
Furthermore, don’t underplay the role alcohol serves, as well as sedatives such as sleeping tablets. Both increase the state of muscle relaxation in the throat, while depressing respiratory drive. Then there is age and sex, as both men and women tend to snore more as they grow older. However, most women tend to start snoring during or after the menopause, with some reporting that Hormone Replacement Therapy subsequently resolved their snoring problem.
For both sexes, anatomical defects can lead to snoring and it may be worth having your nose and throat checked out by an ear, nose and throat specialist. Lastly, the use of nasal sprays and nasal strips may reduce the level of snoring by opening up the nasal passages, though this won’t necessarily mean you mount will remain shut through sleep.
• Success Solution
At the Beacon Sleep Medicine Clinic in Dublin, we treat people with sleep apnoea and snoring with an oral appliance. Most people aren’t aware that an oral appliance can eliminate snoring in the vast majority of cases, even though it’s been around for over 30 years.
While other appliances can be bought over the counter, or online, much like an effective gum shield, it usually pays long-term to have a customised one sourced and fitted by your dentist. The reason being it will feel more comfortable, work better and last longer. Having a custom-made one can, in time, become more cost effective, and more effective overall.
This viewpoint is seconded by irishhealth.com, which says the appliances are “more effective if the snoring is at its worst when sleeping on the back and if lower jaw tends to be set back. If one of these devices is to be used long-term, it should be fitted by a dentist experienced in this area. Long-term use of ‘over the counter’ versions is not recommended, as it may lead to bite problems or pain in the tempero-mandibular joint,” says the website.
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Beacon Dental Clinic, Beacon Consultants Clinic, Dublin, D18 E7P4, Ireland
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