Have you experienced any of the following symptoms? You snore so loudly that those you share a bed or bedroom with wake up in the middle of the night or move to a separate bedroom. You yourself wake up in the middle of the night and sleep restlessly. You feel sleep deprived. You suffer from headaches. You feel tired when you wake up. You’re easily irritated. Your memory isn’t what it used to be. Your mouth and your throat feel dry in the morning; an indication that you are breathing through your mouth instead of your nose. If the answer to any of the above is ‘yes’, you’re probably a snorer and you need to come to terms with the fact and take action before it undermines your health.
The mechanics of snoring
Snoring is caused by constriction of the upper airway around the throat. This is a result of the muscles at the back of the throat, including the uvula and soft palate, relaxing while you are sleeping so as to obstruct the airway which therefore narrows. When we inhale, the air moves through the narrowed airway causing the muscles around it and in the uvula and soft palate, to vibrate, producing the well-known sound of snoring. The slacker the muscles, the louder the snoring. If left unresolved, the obstruction of the airway will increase until it is harmful to health.
Causes of snoring
Snoring is something that can happen to people of all ages. The cause can be something to do with our body structure such as having a small chin, a recessed back or a short neck, for example. There are also some external factors that increase the risk of snoring such as:
• Being overweight or obese which will narrow the airway due to excess fat accumulating around the neck.
• Taking sleeping pills or sedatives that act as depressants on the central nervous system, causing the neck muscles to slacken and the airway to narrow.
• Smoking which irritates and swells the tissues in the throat again resulting in a narrowing of the airways.
• Having a disease that causes obstruction of the airway. These can include allergies that give rise to chronic nasal congestion, enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Or it may be a disease that affects hormones such as hypothyroidism.
Sexuality is another factor tied to snoring. As is common knowledge, more men snore than women. This is due to the muscular structure of the male neck. The upper respiratory tract is larger than the lower larynx leaving a wide area behind the neck that amplifies the snoring sound.
As for female snorers, research has shown that estrogen can help contain the problem. Research has also found that menopausal women are the most likely to snore. Research was conducted on two groups of women who went through menopause, one treated with hormone replacement therapy and the other without. Those who received the treatment were found to snore less. All this means that as they advance in years, women become almost as likely to snore as men.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea – snoring complications
Snoring can be a big problem if Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is involved as it indicates potentially life-threatening consequences. If snoring is stopping your body getting sufficient rest, you carry that drowsiness into your day. That, in turn, can lead to you falling asleep on the job or at the wheel. And we all know where that leads.
OSA is caused by a narrowing of the upper airway. Sleep is when the brain gets a chance to rest up and recover from the day’s exertions. When the upper airway shrinks blood oxygen flow is constricted leading, ultimately, to suffocation. The body responds by breathing harder to try and open the airway. When the brain is stimulated to wake up frequently, the upshot is insomnia or waking up in the middle of the night which makes you feel tired, easily irritable and less efficient. It may also lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, paralysis, depression and such, all of which can occur in a fraction of a second during sleep.
The doctors of those with mild symptoms will most likely recommend behavioral changes. They’ll probably say you should lose weight, quit smoking, change your sleeping position from lying on your back to lying on your side, or start laying your head on a higher pillow, among others.
An alternative is to use a device designed to reduce snoring. These include nasal strips that expand the airways around the nose and chin strips that stop your mouth opening while you’re asleep. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines that blow air through a hose to the nose are another popular treatment. These can be highly effective in expanding the upper airway but before using a CPAP for the first time, it is usual to run a test with a doctor who will help you calibrate an appropriate pressure level. In the case of moderate to severe symptoms, the doctor may recommend surgery which can include neck puncturing or prescribe medication appropriate to each case.
The best advice is to address the problem at the root cause. So if you’ve started snoring, keep an eye on your symptoms and go see a doctor for advice, diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Krungthai-AXA life insurance customers can find out more about health services at: https://www.krungthai-axa.co.th/th/HealthServices.
• Paolo Hospital
• Pobpad website
• Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital
• Verywellhealth website
• SpringerLink (Research)