What Causes Snoring?
Snoring is caused by narrowing of your airways. When your airways are broad, air flows smoothly through them. When your airway narrows, the airflow becomes turbulent, causing your tissues to vibrate, which is what we hear as the sound of snoring. There are many reasons why your airway might narrow, including:
- Narrow nasal passage
- Large soft palate
- Sagging tongue
- Large throat poorly supported by the jaw
Of these, the last two tend to be the most serious. They have the most potential to seriously restrict and even close your airway.
What Are the Risks of Snoring?
Snoring is not just a nuisance. It can have serious risks for you. Because you’re not getting enough oxygen at night, you often sleep poorly. And though you may not know it, sometimes it even wakes you up—as with sleep apnea you just go back to sleep and don’t know you were awake.
In addition, it causes vibrations in your throat that can lead to scarring and hardening of the arteries, which is called atherosclerosis, which contributes to heart disease and stroke risk. This means that snoring is an independent risk for coronary artery disease, and can lead to cardiovascular risks independent of sleep apnea.
It can also lead to serious relationship problems. When neither partner is getting enough quality sleep, minor arguments are more likely to escalate. Snoring is a common contributing factor in domestic violence. It is frequently cited as a contributing factor in divorce.
Snoring Treatment Options
Because it has many potential causes, there are many options to treat it. It is recommended that if you are a snorer, you should be evaluated for sleep apnea before trying any solutions. Sleep apnea is a major health danger and should be treated as soon as possible.
Home Remedies for Snoring
If you have simple snoring, you can try over-the-counter remedies, but don’t expect results. Nasal dilators can work if your nose is the source of your snoring. Most of the others only work for very minor cases, if at all.
Lifestyle changes are also very effective. If you sleep on your back, you should change your sleep position. Sleeping on your back worsens the condition.
Try reducing the amount of allergens in your home’s air supply. Dusting, cleaning vents, and eliminating allergen sources can all be effective at reducing swelling in your airway that can contribute to snoring. You should also identify minor food allergies and avoid them in the evening. You should also quit smoking, which irritates your airway.
Avoid drinking for at least two hours before bedtime. This will allow your body to clear alcohol so it won’t contribute to relaxation of your airway muscles.
Prescription oral appliances are optimally designed to address the sagging of tissues that can narrow or close your airway at night. These are mostly effective if it’s your tongue or throat that is the cause.
Don’t let a doctor or dentist fit you with a “stock” oral appliance, which isn’t customized to your anatomy. Studies show these aren’t effective–only custom appliances have been proven to work.
Surgery works by cutting away some of the tissue that leads to narrowing or vibration in the airway. This should be a treatment of last resort, because it has a low success rate and a high complication rate.