While snoring is an extremely common issue – particularly among individuals who are overweight – it can cause a number of problems, including sleepless nights for loved ones who are forced to listen to the loud noises in bed.
The sound is caused by a series of vibrations in the respiratory structures, which is brought on by turbulence that occurs inside the airways when people breathe in and out, from the nose down to the vocal chords.
In the majority of cases, the tremors only happen during sleep, but in more severe instances, this can occur constantly. The reason for this is while the snoring that takes place during slumber is due to reduced muscle tone, so a loss of this usually means there is not enough to stop the airway tissue from vibrating.
The sound emitted during snoring can emanate from the nose, oropharnyx or the base of the tongue.
When individuals snore, it is usually due to an obstruction to the free flow of air through the passages at the back of the mouth and nose. This area is the collapsible part of the airway where the tongue and upper throat meet the soft palate and uvula.
Snoring occurs when these structures strike each other and vibrate during breathing.
People who make these sounds during sleep may suffer from a number of problems, including:
This act can become an object of ridicule for some people, while causing restlessness and sleepless nights for husbands or wives who are forced to deal with the unpleasant noises.
In addition, the issue can disturb sleeping patterns and deprive the snorer of appropriate rest. When snoring is severe it can also cause serious, long-term health problems such as obstructive sleep apnoea.
This condition, caused when loud snoring is interrupted by frequent periods of totally obstructed breathing, can occur more than seven times every hour – leading patients to experience between 30 and 300 of such events during an average night’s sleep.
Obstructive sleep apnoea can cause the heart to pump harder by reducing blood oxygen levels.
The immediate impact of this problem is that the snorer must sleep lightly and keep his or her muscles tense in order to maintain airflow to the lungs. Also, because the snorer does not get enough sleep, they may be extremely tired during the day making tasks including work or driving extremely dangerous.
Those who live with the condition for many years may experience high blood pressure or enlargement to the heart.
Individuals who snore in any position, or are disrupting the sleep of other people, should seek medical assistance as soon as they can to ensure they are not affected by sleep apnoea.
An otolaryngologist can provide a thorough examination of the nose, mouth, throat, neck and palate, while a sleep study in a laboratory may be necessary to determine how severe the problem is and what effect – if any – it is having on the snorer’s wellbeing.
Depending on the diagnosis, patients can seek a range of treatments that could assist them with this issue. An initial examination will reveal if nasal allergy, infection, deformity or tonsils and adenoids cause the sound.
Obstructive sleep apnoea or snoring may respond to various courses of action, which are now offered by many head and neck surgeons, including:
Different processes include bipolar cautery, laser and radio frequency. Laser Assisted Uvula Palatoplasty treats snoring by removing the obstruction in the airway. During this procedure, a laser is used to vaporise the uvula and a specified portion of the palate in a series of small procedures carried out under local anaesthetic.
Adults who suffer from mild or occasional snoring should adopt a healthy and athletic lifestyle in order to develop good muscle tone and lose weight, as well as avoiding sleeping pills, tranquilisers and antihistamines before bed time.
Establishing regular sleeping times and turning on the side before slumber can also help combat this issue.