Looking for the reasons why people snore and how to prevent snoring? Snoring is a common issue that affects millions of people globally, and while occasional snoring is normal, it can become problematic if it occurs frequently and with hoarse sounds, potentially indicating a serious health issue. Snoring is caused by the vibration of the tissues in the throat, which happens when the air passages narrow while breathing during sleep. Not only can snoring be bothersome for the snorer and their sleeping partner, but it can also have significant health implications.
To prevent snoring, it’s essential to understand that snoring occurs when breathing is obstructed, making it difficult for air to pass through the nose or mouth. This obstruction forces air through the partially obstructed airway, causing tissues in that pathway to bump into each other and vibrate, resulting in a grunting or rattling sound. Occasional snoring affects around 40% of children and 49% of adults, while habitual snoring affects 2.4-15% of children and 10-36% of adults, according to a study.
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Note: Snoring that happens on a regular basis, at least three nights a week, is classified as habitual snoring.
Why People Snore and How to Prevent Snoring
There are several factors that can contribute to snoring, including:
Sleep position is often the primary cause of occasional snoring. Typically, snoring happens when a person lies in a supine position, with their face up and back on the bed. The force of gravity pulls the tissues around the airway downwards, leading to a narrower airway and snoring.
However, research shows that some patients experience a decrease in the frequency and intensity of snoring when they sleep in a lateral position (on their side). Additionally, using a specialized pillow designed to keep the head to one side can also be effective in reducing snoring.
Individuals who are overweight often have additional tissue in their neck area, which can result in a smaller airway size and an increased risk of airway collapse, leading to snoring. Therefore, weight loss may be an effective way to reduce snoring in overweight people. According to a study, men who lost up to six pounds noticed a decrease in the frequency of their snoring. Moreover, significant weight loss led to a near-elimination of snoring in the study participants.
Nasal congestion can decrease the airflow through the airway, resulting in its collapse and causing snoring. Common causes of nasal congestion include infections, allergies, and dry air. If these conditions persist, they may lead to chronic nasal congestion and contribute to habitual snoring. According to a study, individuals who experience nighttime nasal congestion consistently are three times more likely to develop habitual snoring.
Men tend to snore more frequently than women due to their biological characteristics. About 40% of adult males are habitual snorers, compared to 24% of females, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Men usually have narrower air passages and longer upper airways, which amplify snores. In addition, they have a larger space at the back of the throat due to their larger upper airways and lower hanging larynxes.
These physical attributes, such as a narrow throat, more tissues around the airways, and a larger soft palate, can also be hereditary and contribute to snoring. While it is not possible to change one’s gender or physical characteristics, lifestyle changes, bedtime routines, and throat exercises can help reduce the frequency and intensity of snoring.
Alcohol and sedatives
Alcohol and sedative medications can relax the muscles that support the airway tissue, leading to snoring. Snorers, including those with obstructive sleep apnea, may experience more severe snoring when consuming alcohol. To minimize snoring, some doctors recommend that patients avoid alcohol and sedatives before going to bed. Following this approach may provide benefits for individuals who snore.
As people get older, their sleep patterns change along with their hormones, physical strength, and sex drive. One common change is an increase in snoring during sleep. This is due to the weakening of the tongue and the muscles surrounding the airway, making them more susceptible to collapse.
A study has indicated that some individuals have experienced a reduction in the intensity and frequency of snoring by practicing mouth and throat exercises, also known as myofunctional therapy. The Sleep Foundation has provided a list of mouth and throat exercises that can be performed to help reduce snoring.
Hypothyroidism is a medical condition that results from an underactive thyroid gland which fails to produce sufficient thyroid hormone. This hormone is essential in regulating the body’s metabolism, which can affect weight gain or loss, muscle function, heart rate, and digestion. If left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to symptoms such as a hoarse voice, a puffy face, a slow heart rate, and slow speech. According to a study of patients with hypothyroidism, all of them exhibited snoring as a symptom.
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How to prevent snoring?
Change sleeping position: Sleeping on your side can help prevent snoring. You can also try elevating your head with a pillow to help keep your airway open.
Maintain a healthy weight: Losing weight can help reduce the amount of tissue in the throat, which can help prevent snoring.
Avoid alcohol and sedatives: Alcohol and sedatives can cause the muscles in the throat to relax, which can lead to snoring.
Treat allergies: Allergies can cause inflammation in the airway, which can lead to snoring. Treating allergies with antihistamines or nasal sprays can help reduce snoring.
Treat underlying medical conditions: Medical conditions such as sleep apnea, hypothyroidism, or acid reflux can cause snoring. Treating these conditions can help reduce snoring.
Use snoring aids: There are several snoring aids available, such as nasal strips or mouth guards, which can help reduce snoring.
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Snoring can be a major annoyance for both the snorer and their sleeping partner, but it can also have serious health implications. Understanding the causes of snoring and how to prevent it can help improve the quality of life for those who suffer from snoring.
If you or a loved one suffers from snoring, it is important to speak to a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment. By making simple lifestyle changes and seeking treatment, you can improve your sleep and reduce snoring.