Why do some people snore and what can you do about it?
There’s also a tendency to confuse snoring with sleep apnea, but it’s important to remember that these conditions are not the same.
If you live with someone who snores, you know just how disrupting it can be - and not just for yourself. Even the person who snores can get disrupted sleep because snoring loudly can wake them up just as much as the person lying next to them (or those sleeping in the next room for that matter).
But why do we snore? Is snoring the same as sleep apnea? And is there any way to reduce snoring? Read on to find out everything you ever wanted to know about snoring.
Why do we snore?
Pet owners can testify that even their cats and dogs snore, so snoring is clearly not something only humans do. Sleep is usually relaxing, so when you sleep — especially on your back — your throat muscles relax and your tongue falls backwards. This narrows the throat and, according to the National Sleep Foundation, USA, “makes it floppy”. When you breathe in during this stage, the walls of the throat vibrate and make that sound you know as snoring.
Contrary to popular belief, snoring usually happens when you breathe in, and not out. If your airway becomes narrower, you will snore more loudly as you inhale. Snoring is not restricted to people of a particular gender, but it does increase with age because ageing naturally relaxes the throat muscles. Obesity, anatomical or functional abnormalities of the nose (like a deviated septum) and throat (like enlarged tonsils), allergies, congestion, sleep position, muscle relaxants and alcohol consumption can increase the chances of snoring.
There’s also a tendency to confuse snoring with sleep apnea, but it’s important to remember that these conditions are not the same. Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder, during which the muscles of the throat collapse completely. This, in turn, leads to total occlusion and partial or full cessation of breathing during sleep and can make you snore very loudly.
How can you reduce snoring?
If you’ve been told that you snore a lot and loudly, or if you don’t feel rested enough after eight or more hours of sleep, you should go to the doctor to find out if you have a respiratory issue or sleep disorder. The following are some ways to reduce snoring:
Change positions: If you mostly sleep on your back, it could be the cause of your snoring. Sleep on your side, and try positioning pillows behind your back to avoid rolling onto your back while asleep.
Lose weight: Being overweight or obese can increase snoring, so losing weight can reduce or eliminate it completely.
Avoid relaxants: Use of alcohol and muscle relaxants can cause excessive and loud snoring. Avoid alcohol consumption before sleep, and ask your doctor about alternative medications in case you are on muscle relaxants that make you snore.
Quit smoking: Smoking is one of the causes of respiratory blockages and diseases. So if you smoke and snore, it’s best to quit the former to stop the latter.
Inhale steam: Steam inhalation is a well-known method of reducing congestion and clearing out the airway. You can give steam inhalation a try to reduce snoring.
Yoga: Practising pranayama or breathing exercises can also help reduce respiratory issues as well as snoring. Yoga asanas like dhanurasana and bhujangasana can also improve lung capacity and reduce snoring.
Oral appliances: Form-fitting dental mouthpieces or screens are recommended by dentists and doctors to those people who snore due to respiratory disorders or obstructed airways. These are custom-made and prescribed to patients who have been diagnosed with a sleep disorder.
Masks and nasal strips: Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) masks and nasal strips are recommended to patients who snore due to a serious respiratory disorder by doctors. These should not be used unless you have a diagnosed condition like sleep apnea.
Surgery: If you snore due to obstructive sleep apnea or anatomical abnormalities in your nose, nasal passage, throat and airway, then your doctor might recommend surgery to correct the situation. These surgeries are usually effective but only done if the sleep disorder or the abnormality is extremely severe.
For more information, read our article on Sleep apnea: Symptoms, causes, treatment and medicine.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.
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