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Causes Of Snoring, Sleep Apnea & Sleep Quality: A Comprehensive Overview

One in Three Adults Snore.

Snoring is a problem that affects 67% of adults. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 120 million snore nightly. More than an annoyance, snoring disrupts sleep for snorers and their sleeping partners, which can lead to serious health risks and a lowered quality of life. Children can also have snoring problems.

What Exactly Is Snoring?

Snoring is caused by a partial obstruction in the passageway between one’s lungs and nose or mouth during sleep. For example, as you sleep, the throat muscles relax and narrow this passage way. When air travels over the partial obstruction, the soft tissues vibrate, and the harsh sounds of snoring occurGrab your Vital Sleep discount code.

  

Symptoms of Snoring

Obviously, the primary symptom of snoring is its annoying, grating sound which interrupts your sleep and others’. Most people discover they snore from a bed partner whose sleep has been disrupted. But if you sleep alone, you may not know that you snore. Watch, then, for these other symptoms: waking up with a sore throat or a dry mouth or with a feeling of fatigue that persists through the day.

Finding the Cause

There are several ways in which an air passage can be blocked, resulting in snoring. You may need to do some detective work to pinpoint exactly why you snore. Some people snore due to common causes, such as chronic nasal congestion, acid reflux or sleep position. Others may snore due to a severe medical condition known as “sleep apnea.” It is critical to distinguish between the two in effectively treating snorers.  

Snoring and Sleep Apnea

The word “apnea” means a temporary suspension of breathing. Sleep apnea refers to the temporary suspension of breathing during sleep. People with OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) stop breathing while they sleep, some as brief as a few seconds, others for minutes. 

What Is Sleep Apnea? Everything You Need To Know

As sleep apnea is typically accompanied by snoring, it is often mistaken for a case of simple snoring. Regardless, sleep apnea is a serious medical condition which, if left untreated, can be life-threatening. In addition to loud snoring, other sleep apnea symptoms include pauses in breathing during sleep (as observed by another), waking suddenly with shortness of breath, waking with a dry mouth or sore throat, morning headaches, insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, attention difficulties, and irritability.

Sleep apnea strains the body and its functions and can cause heart disease. Sleep apnea sufferers are also prone to type 2 diabetes, metabolic issues, and liver problems. If you suspect you or your bed partner may have sleep apnea, consult your doctor as soon as possible for proper diagnosis and treatment.

 

mouth snoring

Risk Factors: Common Causes Of Snoring

As covered above, snoring is caused by air traveling over a partially blocked airway between the lungs and nose or mouth during sleep. Here is a list of ways in which the airway can become blocked and cause people to snore:

1. Age/Growing Older

Night time can be a real grind for the elderly. Just as it is challenging to get shut-eye, snoring becomes even more of an issue with age. As people age, their throat muscles might lose their strength and become more susceptible to vibrations. The loose tissue in the throat and soft palate (the fleshy part toward the back of the throat) collapses more readily, resulting in a narrower airway.

Engaging in myofunctional therapy (mouth and throat exercises) can help to strengthen the throat muscles. Mouth exercises have been proven effective at strengthening throat muscles and decreasing snoring.

2. Weight and Obesity:

Obesity has been linked to a decreased quality of life, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke risk, heart disease, and many types of cancer. It is also a proven risk factor for snoring, especially for men. This is because fat tissue in the neck and throat area can cause the airway to narrow, collapse, and partially become blocked, especially during sleep. This then causes vibrations that lead to snoring.

The good news is that with weight loss, you may be able to significantly decrease your chances of developing or worsening breathing problems–both snoring and sleep apnea which are often caused by obesity. Increasing physical activity levels will help promote weight loss.

Research has shown that weight loss of as little as 20 pounds can help reduce the severity or frequency of snoring in many people, as well as a reduction in sleep apnea symptoms, including daytime fatigue, morning dry mouth, depression, headaches, and shortness of breath.

In extreme cases where extra effort is required to lose weight due to metabolic disorders such as hypothyroidism, it may be necessary for patients to go on an appropriate diet plan with close monitoring by a physician until their condition improves.

Weight Loss Tips:

- Carbohydrates promote fat storage, which makes you more likely to gain weight, so they should be eaten sparingly; instead, focus on eating plenty of vegetables while choosing healthier sources of protein such as eggs or fish.

- Keep a food diary to track your daily eating habits and identify where calories are coming from so that you can make necessary changes.

- Set more realistic targets with weekly weigh-ins on top of recording what you eat each day, then adjust based on progress made towards those goals.

 

women blowing nose

3. Throat and Nose Structure: 

Structural issues within the nose can produce the obstructed or uneven airflow, which causes snoring. For example, a deviated septum, the middle bone that divides your nasal cavity in half, might be significantly off-center or crooked, making regular breathing difficult. An enlarged uvula (that little thing that hangs down in the back of your throat) can also contribute to restricted airflow as it falls back into the throat, creating an obstruction.

Other structural issues include nasal polyps, scar tissue, large adenoids, tonsils, tongue shape, and size.

4. The Common Cold, Flu, and Infections

Sinus congestion and nasal stuffiness constrict the nasal passages causing one to breathe through the mouth. When this occurs during sleep, it can result in snoring. Bronchitis, pneumonia, and other respiratory illnesses, such as COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), can also lead to snoring. They interfere with breathing by blocking nasal passages or causing congestion in the throat.

To eliminate the congestion in your nose or throat, you should take a decongestant containing pseudoephedrine to shrink swollen tissues and open up airways.

5. Allergies:

Many allergy symptoms are caused by inflammation, including itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, sinus pain, and headaches. This inflammation swells the tissue around the throat and sinuses and also causes excess mucus. This condition blocks the airway.

 

people drinking alcohol

6. Alcohol

Alcohol relaxes people both physically and mentally. Drinking in excess or before bed causes the throat muscles to relax too much and obstruct airflow, causing snoring. Additionally, alcohol dulls the reflexes, diminishing one’s ability to recognize and respond to discomfort by waking up or shifting position.

7. Smoking

Smoking is an irritant that inflames the respiratory system, progressively narrowing the airway, which causes snoring. Even nonsmokers who live with smokers are more inclined to snore due to the inflammation caused by second-hand smoke.

 

lady smoking

8. Sleeping Position

Sleeping on your back causes the tongue to fall back, creating an obstruction that produces snoring. Snoring can be reduced by simply switching up your sleeping position. Doctors recommend sleeping on one’s side.

9. Pregnancy

The rapid changes that come with pregnancy present many physical challenges, including snoring. For pregnant women, snoring can be caused by weight gain, excess congestion, back sleeping, and pressure from the uterus on the diaphragm.

Snoring Treatment

To eliminate snoring and prevent it from developing sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend:

Lifestyle changes.

Lifestyle changes are just the first step in curing your snoring problem. Your doctor might advise you to stop smoking, lose some weight or cut back on drinking alcohol before bedtime as well - this will help with sleep quality and ensure that you get a good night's rest!

Oral Appliances

Oral appliances are made to hold your tongue, jaw, and soft palate in place so that they cannot collapse during sleep. This keeps the air passage open, which prevents snoring. If you're considering an oral appliance, you should first talk to your doctor. They should provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment options for your level of snoring.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the most effective treatment for persistent snoring and sleep apnea. While it could be effective on its own, it is mainly recommended to combine it with other treatments as well for better long-term results. Also, patients might be required to adjust their lifestyle before considering therapy - this means losing weight, getting healthier exercise habits, and cutting back on alcohol consumption.

How It Works

The patient has to wear a mask over their nose and/or mouth at night. The CPAP machine keeps a gentle flow of air blowing through it to keep your breathing passages open. This prevents snoring, improves sleep quality, and increases alertness during the day.

Upper Airway Surgery

There are several procedures that that can permanently help to open the upper airway to help prevent significant narrowing during sleep. The most commonly recommended treatment is the uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) which removes tissue from the palate and soft palate.

Others include Maxillomandibular Advancement, radiofrequency ablation, and Lingual Tonsillectomy, among others.

Read more: Treatments For Sleep Apnea & Snoring - Devices, New & Traditional.

Home Remedies to Stop Snoring.

-Raise the head of your bed six to eight inches by placing blocks under the legs or using books and magazines.

-Sleep on a soft surface like memory foam, which reduces chronic nasal congestion and opens airways.

-Avoid alcohol and smoking before bed.

-Eat smaller meals earlier in the day, which may reduce nighttime hunger pangs that can lead to excessive weight gain and exacerbating any existing condition.

-Avoid lying directly on your back, as this will contribute to snoring due to nasal congestion and increased pharyngeal pressure. Instead, sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees.

-Avoid sleeping in a sitting position for long periods as this can lead to snoring due to the gravitational pull and increased pharyngeal pressure.

-Try anti-snoring devices such as sleep masks and mouthpieces.

The VitalSleep Anti-Snoring Mouthpiece

The VitalSleep anti-snoring mouthpiece diminishes snoring by holding the lower jaw forward to keep your airway clear and allow air to pass freely to your lungs. By having a clearer airway, you’ll experience improved airflow, quiet breathing, and more restful sleep.

VitalSleep is cleared by the FDA to reduce snoring and is made of FDA-cleared, medical-grade materials, so you can trust it to be safe and effective.

For more information about the VitalSleep anti-snoring mouthpiece and the negative impact of snoring on one’s health and well-being, visit our home page www.VitalSleep.com.

References

Ramar, K., Dort, L. C., Katz, S. G., Lettieri, C. J., Harrod, C. G., Thomas, S. M., & Chervin, R. D. (2015). Clinical practice guideline for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea and snoring with oral appliance therapy: an update for 2015: an American Academy of Sleep Medicine and American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine clinical practice guideline. Journal of clinical sleep medicine, 11(7), 773-827.

Ieto, V., Kayamori, F., Montes, M. I., Hirata, R. P., Gregório, M. G., Alencar, A. M., ... & Lorenzi-Filho, G. (2015). Effects of oropharyngeal exercises on snoring: a randomized trial. Chest, 148(3), 683-691.

Semelka, M., Wilson, J., & Floyd, R. (2016). Diagnosis and treatment of obstructive sleep apnea in adults. American family physician, 94(5), 355-360.

Marklund, M., & Franklin, K. A. (2015). Treatment of elderly patients with snoring and obstructive sleep apnea using a mandibular advancement device. Sleep and Breathing, 19(1), 403-405.

Stuck, B. A., Dreher, A., Heiser, C., Herzog, M., Kühnel, T., Maurer, J. T., ... & Verse, T. (2015). Diagnosis and treatment of snoring in adults–S2k Guideline of the German Society of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery. Sleep and Breathing, 19(1), 135-148.

Friedman, M., & Jacobowitz, O. (Eds.). (2018). Sleep Apnea and Snoring E-Book: Surgical and Non-Surgical Therapy. Elsevier Health Sciences.