What is Snoring?
Having to listen to the sound of someone snoring when you are trying to fall asleep can definitely drive you over the edge. Strangely enough, the snorer is usually unaware that he or she is snoring and it is the bed partner who has to contend with the snoring. Snoring is the sound that occurs when air flow is obstructed in the area where the tongue and upper throat meet the soft palate and uvula.
These structures cause the tissues to vibrate as you breathe which produces the snoring sounds. Depending on the anatomy of the mouth, the snoring sound may range from soft, feeble sounds to hoarse, harsh sounds. While snoring is not only noisy and annoying to others, disturbing healthy sleep patterns and causing sleep deprivation, it is often a symptom of other serious medical conditions.
If snoring increases and is also left untreated, it can result in obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea, in turn, enhances the risk of health complications such as fatigue, lack of concentration, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, loss of libido, systemic and pulmonary hypertension. Children with obstructive apnea run the risk of developing attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Living with a snorer is not easy. Snoring poses a major threat to domestic harmony by disrupting sleeping patterns which causes a lack of sleep for the bed mate. It results in poor performance at work, embarrassment, an unfulfilling sex life, separate bedrooms and even divorce.
Snoring is very common and it is estimated that 45% of all adults snore occasionally, and 25% snore habitually. It is especially common in males, but increases with age (over the age of 65 years) in both sexes. People who are overweight tend to snore more.
Consulting a doctor about your snoring problem can benefit both you and your partner. A physical examination will be performed and a medical history taken. Your doctor will also be able to assess the severity of the problem by asking your partner some questions about how and when you snore. For further tests and evaluation, you may be referred to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor, also called an otolaryngolist or sleep specialist. Often an overnight stay at a sleep center is required to conduct an in-depth analysis of your sleeping patterns.
What Causes Snoring?
Snoring may be caused by several factors:
- Low, thick soft palate
- Enlarged, swollen tonsils or adenoids
- Excessively bulky throat tissue
- Long uvula
- Poor muscle tone
- Blocked nasal passages or airways
- Deformities of the nose
- Deviated nasal septum
- Seasonal allergies
- Excess alcohol consumption
Help for Snoring
Treatment options to prevent snoring are generally based on a number of factors. These factors depend on your age, overall health, medical history, and the extent of the disorder, your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies, expectations for the course of the disorder and your opinion or preference. Various treatments include oral appliances, traditional surgery, laser surgery, radio frequency tissue ablation (somnoplasty) or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).
Oral appliances such as form-fitting dental mouthpieces obtained from your dentist can help to move the position of the tongue and soft palate so that your air passage remains open. A surgical procedure called uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) performed to treat obstructive sleep apnea tightens flabby tissue in the throat and palate and expands air passages.
If your snoring is loud and disruptive, laser surgery is recommended. Laser surgery involves a small hand-held laser beam to shorten the soft palate and remove the uvulva. Another type of surgical procedure called radio frequency tissue ablation (somnoplasty) uses a low intensity radio frequency signal to remove part of the soft palate to reduce snoring. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) involves wearing a pressurized mask that forces air over your nose while you sleep.
It is highly recommended that certain lifestyle modifications such as eating healthily, exercising regularly, and reducing alcohol intake, stopping smoking and losing weight be made in conjunction with the specific treatment.
A more natural, holistic approach can also help to reduce and treat the symptoms of snoring. Herbal and homeopathic remedies are fast becoming a popular choice of treatment for many people. The reason for this is that these herbal remedies address the root of the problem, not only the symptoms and also work at providing a long term cure.
Herbs such as Avena sativa and Scuttelaria lateriflora treat nervous fatigue, stress, insomnia and acts as an excellent nerve tonic. Passiflora incarnata research is a relaxing herb which is very effective in the treatment of anxiety and stress. In addition, tissue salts containing Calcium Sulphate, Magnesium Phosphate and Calcium Phosphate can also restore healthy sleep patterns and help the body relax.
Tissue salts are nutritional substances which are used to maintain optimal health and functioning and also to restore balance and relieve symptoms of disease. Best of all, it is safe for everyone, including pregnant and nursing women, children, small babies and people on other prescription drugs. Remember to consult an experienced herbalist or homeopath when choosing a specific remedy.
Tips to prevent snoring
- There are some helpful tips for people who suffer from mild or occasional snoring and they include:
- Eat healthy, balanced meals that consist of fresh fruit, vegetables, lean meat and fish
- Exercise regularly to develop good muscle tone, promote sleep and at the same time lose weight
- If you are overweight, losing weight will reduce snoring by increasing the space in your air passage way
- Avoid taking medication such as sleeping pills, tranquilizers and antihistamines before bedtime
- Avoid eating heavy meals and snacks at least three hours before bedtime
- Avoid alcohol at least four hours before bedtime
- Establish regular sleeping patterns
- Sleep on your side rather than your back to prevent snoring
- Tilt the head of your bed upwards four inches
- Sleep on a firm pillow as soft pillows encourage your throat muscles to relax and narrows your air passageway
- To prevent sleeping on your back, sew a tennis ball to the back of your shirt; the discomfort of sleeping on the ball will prevent you from staying on your back.
- Inhale steam before sleeping or sleep in a room with a humidifier turned on, which will reduce congestion and moisturize the throat
- Put nasal strips on before going to sleep as they will help to open up your nostrils and allow more air to come in, thus reduce snoring.
- Stop smoking as it causes inflammation and swelling of the throat
- Encourage your bed partner to wear earplugs to filter out the noise or make an arrangement whereby you will only go to sleep once he or she has fallen asleep