Throughout the US about 70 million people suffer from unsound sleep. They don’t necessarily have to suffer from a sleep disorder; poor quality sleep or not getting the necessary hours of rest often has the same effects as a sleep disorder. Blame it on hectic work schedules or an unhealthy lifestyle, but poor sleep quality has been on the rise for the last many years. Some people suffer from chronic insomnia, some have fragmented sleep, while some people stay up because of ambient factors. Yes, believe it or not, but external factors are often responsible for causing unsound sleep. From noisy neighbors to the sound of traffic, to snoring (leading to the question how to stop snoring), various environmental factors are responsible for contributing to disturbed sleep.
Sometimes the source of distraction maybe right next to us. We are talking about snoring. At the same time, snoring is both a disorder and a distraction. However, snoring is also more normal than any other sleep issue. In fact, it isn’t considered an issue at all, not until it starts to disturb the people around the snorer. Snoring is a problem that only the people around the snorer are aware of. Once the person is asleep, they do not know if they snore. In some cases, they may refuse to believe that they snore when told by others. It is often embarrassing, and not many like to admit that their snoring keeps others awake at night.
Every person snores at some point. They may snore softly when in a deep sleep or when they have a cold. But it isn’t something regular or permanent. Such snoring is also quite tolerable to others around the sleeper. The problem arises when the snoring is loud enough to not only keep the people in the room awake but also disturb the others in the house even through closed doors. This is when snoring is considered a sleep disorder and needs treatment.
What Is Snoring?
Simply put snoring is the result of a blocked air passageway. It generally happens when there is an obstruction to breathing. When a person sleeps the muscles in the body relax. The problem is, in snorers, the throat muscles also relax and block the air passage. This creates obstructed air movement and does not let the person breathe freely. As a result, the strained breathing creates a noise.
It is easy to simply brush aside snoring and not consider it a problem at all. But the fact is the sound of snoring can sometimes exceed 100 decibels, which is louder than the sound of a road drill. Even if the person remains unaware of the fact that he or she snores, the loud noise can cause sleep disturbances to others around him forcing them to seek remedies to stop snoring. The loudness of snoring can lead to chronic insomnia and for sleep quality in others sharing the room with the snorer.
Snoring is not a problem when it is transient or because of a condition like a cold. It is also more common among men and those above middle age. Habitual snoring affects around 90 million people in the US alone. Children can also sometimes be habitual snorers, but the generally outgrow it as they get older.
What are the Most Common Causes of Snoring?
As already discussed, the primary cause of snoring is obstruction of the air passage. But the obstruction can stem from various causes. Snoring is more an annoyance than anything else. It is not readily seen as a sleep disorder or a health problem. Snoring can often remain undiagnosed, and even though it may not be dangerous for the person, it can lead to various other problems.
Most Common Causes of Snoring
Excess Weight: Overweight or obese people are more at risk for snoring. In fact, more than half of the total number of people who snore are overweight or obese. Any person with a body mass index of 29.9 or above is considered overweight, while a body mass index of 40 and above is considered obese. BMI is not always the sole yardstick for measuring excess weight. Men with a neck circumference of 17 inches or higher are also at risk for snoring. This is because overweight people have thick palates that narrow down the airway and obstruct breathing. This is not really a disorder but more of a lifestyle problem, affecting a vast number of people in the US.
Alcohol: Many people are fond of consuming an alcoholic drink after dinner or before bed because they find it relaxing. Indeed, alcohol does have a relaxing effect on the body. Alcohol is known to relax all the muscles of the body including the throat muscles. When throat muscles relax, they block the airway and obstruct breathing. That is the reason why any person with sleep disorders or respiratory troubles should avoid alcohol at least two hours before bedtime.
Nasal Problems: Respiratory or nasal problems can often be the reason behind loud snoring. Chronic nasal congestion and deviated nasal septum are one of the biggest physiological reasons behind snoring. Nasal congestion can have a variety of causes including allergies, common cold, sinusitis, environmental irritants, and nasal polyps. The septum is the wall between the nostrils. When it is crooked, it leads to a condition called deviated nasal septum. This causes airway obstruction and prevents normal breathing, leading to snoring. All types of nasal congestion require a medical diagnosis.
Sleep Deprivation: Snoring and sleep deprivation are connected in two ways: sleep-deprived people tend to snore more, and those who snore are also usually sleep deprived. When sleep deprived people finally get to rest, they are more likely to snore than others.
Sleep Position: The position in which a person sleeps is also a possible reason for snoring. Those who sleep on their back are more likely to snore than those who sleep on the sides or on the stomach. This is because when a person sleeps on the back, the air passage is narrowed down due to the relaxed throat muscles. Those who sleep on their backs and snore loudly may try changing the sleep position to see if there is any improvement.
What Habitual Snoring Can Lead To?
Snoring may not always be the problem itself. Throat muscles relax in every person when they sleep, but when it begins to obstruct the breathing, it becomes a problem. When snoring goes undiagnosed, it can lead to other issues. Some of them are:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea: In several cases, snoring is a sign of a more serious disorder called obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is of a number of types, but the most common is obstructive sleep apnea, in which the air passage is blocked by the relaxing throat muscles. This not only causes snoring but also makes the breathing stop and start abruptly throughout the night. As a result, the person fails to get proper rest, wakes up with a dry mouth and throat and feels tired throughout the day. Snoring is usually the first sign of obstructive sleep apnea.
Sleep Deprivation: When a person snores it means the breathing is obstructed. And when the breathing is obstructed sleep is hampered. When a person fails to breathe normally, it wakes them up several times at night, leading to chronic sleep deprivation in the long run.
Inability to Concentrate: Snoring causes sleep deprivation and excessive daytime sleepiness. As a result, concentration and productivity suffer and the risk of accidents at work and on the road also increases.
Health Problems: Failing to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night can lead to various health problems including heart disease and the risk of strokes in heart attacks. Insufficient sleep has also been linked to hormonal imbalances and an increase in appetite and weight gain.
Sleep Divorce: Relationships are often affected when one of the partners snores. In fact, it isn’t surprising to find couples who have broken up or divorced because one of them was a loud snorer. Although underestimated, snoring is a big enough reason behind the degrading of relationships.
7 Effective Remedies to Stop Snoring
Although snoring can lead to various problems, it isn’t the end of the world. Snoring can often be managed with a few easy remedies. Some of them are:
Changing Sleep Position
Since back sleepers are more likely to snore, the first remedy to try is changing the sleep position. If you are a back sleeper, try sleeping on your side for a change. If that seems difficult in the beginning use a body pillow for help. When you sleep on your side, your throat muscles do not relax into the air passage and do not obstruct the breathing. Many back sleepers who snore have reported a marked improvement when sleeping on the side.
Most snorers are overweight, and in that case, losing weight is the only option. Although not too easy, maintaining the ideal body weight is one of the most effective ways to stop snoring. Following a proper diet and exercise is the best place to begin. A healthy BMI is between 21 and 25. Anything lower is underweight, and anything higher is overweight. Besides fat-burning exercises, strength training is also helpful in shedding fat, building muscles, and boosting metabolism.
Avoiding Alcohol and Sedatives
Alcohol and sedatives work the same way. They relax the muscles of the body, including that of the throat. When a person consumes alcohol or sedatives before bedtime, they are more likely to snore because the throat muscles relax further under the influence of the sedatives. Habitual snorers who consume alcohol or sedatives before going to bed should avoid them. This can bring about a significant improvement in snoring.
Practicing Better Sleep Hygiene
Snoring can often be a result of sleep deprivation and a lack of sleep hygiene. Maintaining a proper bedtime routine can alleviate most of the problems. Having a fixed sleep schedule, avoiding coffee and nicotine, and taking short naps are some of the ways to bring about quality sleep and reduce snoring.
Mattresses, pillows, and sheets house millions of dust mites and allergens. No matter how many times you wash them, they keep trapping dust and allergens. When a habitual snorer sleeps on such pillows and sheets, it causes allergies and adds to respiratory distress, making snoring worse. That is why pillows and sheets should be regularly changed and kept clean all the time. Also, make sure that the pillows keep your head and neck properly supported. If possible, stack two or three pillows to keep your head elevated while you sleep.
Warmth helps clear blockages in the airway, removes congestion, and ease respiratory distress. Besides, a warm bath or shower will also help you sleep deeper. This could help lessen snoring that starts in the nose. You could also keep a bottle of saltwater rinse in the shower for rinsing your nose out with to open up the nasal passages. Besides taking a hot bath or shower, you may also consider buying a neti pot to clear the nasal passages with a saltwater solution.
When the body is dehydrated, it produces thicker fluids. When your nasal secretions become thick, it blocks the airway and causes snoring. Dehydration can be one of the biggest reasons behind snoring sometimes. There are snoring sprays that prevent the nasal passages from sticking together. Drinking enough water during the day often reduces snoring in dehydrated people. However, drinking too much water before bedtime isn’t recommended because it will only make you get up for the bathroom.
The causes and treatment for snoring aren’t easy to determine without a medical diagnosis. There are anti-snoring devices such as Tongue Stabilizing Devices (or TSDs) and mandibular advancement devices that open up the airway, to prevent obstruction. These mouthpieces should always be used under the supervision of a doctor because only a healthcare practitioner will be able to determine the reason behind the snoring and suggest the right treatment options. In the meanwhile, home remedies and sleep hygiene can be tried to alleviate the distress for the snorer and others around.
Snoring though may seem innocuous can be an indicator of a serious underlying health condition. It may even be affecting you in ways that might not be apparent – like affecting your sleep quality, diminishing your capabilities to concentrate on work, or even affecting your relationship with your partner.
We have also created an infographic on this subject, feel free to share it with your friends and on your social networks. Happy sleeping!