Snoring and Your Health - PIH Health

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Published on February 25, 2016

Snoring and Your Health

Snoring man

Snoring manSurprisingly, about 45% of adults snore at least occasionally. And 75% of those who snore have obstructive sleep apnea — a condition in which breathing actually stops during sleep for short periods of time. Snoring occurs when air passing through relaxed throat muscles causes them to vibrate.

“Snoring is not only bothersome, in extreme cases it can be dangerous,” says Hussein Nassr MD, pulmonologist and sleep medicine specialist. “Obstructive sleep apnea for example can lead to heart disease. Even mild or occasional snoring interrupts sleep and can keep us from getting the rest the body needs to function properly.”

Snoring Triggers

Various conditions and behaviors can affect airflow and cause snoring:

  • Mouth anatomy: a low, thick soft palate can narrow the airway; an elongated uvula can also obstruct airflow
  • Alcohol consumption: it relaxes throat muscles and decreases the body’s natural defenses against airway obstruction
  • Nasal problems: chronic nasal congestion or a deviated nasal septum may contribute to snoring
  • Sleep deprivation: not getting enough sleep can lead to greater than normal throat relaxation
  • Sleep position: sleeping on your back narrows the airway and can lead to snoring
  • Being overweight: extra tissue in the back of the throat may narrow the airways

Lifestyle Changes

To prevent or quiet snoring:

  • Lose weight
  • Raise the head of your bed
  • Use nasal strips
  • Limit alcohol consumption near bedtime
  • Hydrate well – it prevents the secretions in the nose and soft palate from becoming stickier
  • Sleep on your side
  • Treat nasal congestion
  • Quit smoking
  • Change your pillows – they collect dust and allergens that can clog up your nose
  • Get enough sleep – being overtired causes alcohol-like reactions in the throat muscles

When to See a Doctor

If you’re experiencing daytime sleepiness, moodiness, difficulty concentrating and other problems, talk to your doctor. These may indicate a sleeping disorder or more serious snoring condition, such as the aforementioned obstructive sleep apnea disorder. Children can have obstructive sleep apnea too, so if your child snores talk to your pediatrician. The doctor may request imaging tests and/or a sleep study to assess your condition and help determine an appropriate treatment.

Treatment options include:

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) - a pressurized mask over your nose that forces air through your airways
  • Oral appliances - form-fitting dental mouthpieces that position the jaw, tongue and soft palate to keep the air passage open

  • Palatal Implants, Traditional Surgery, Laser Surgery, and Radiofrequency Tissue Ablation – these are different methods used to alter, reduce or remove either the soft palate, uvula or throat tissue in order to increase air flow

Don’t underestimate the potential health risks and conditions associated with snoring. It may just be an occasional nuisance or something more serious.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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