Snoring is a loud, hoarse, or harsh breathing sound that occurs during sleep.
You snore when something blocks the flow of air through your mouth and nose. The sound is caused by tissues at the top of your airway that strike each other and vibrate.
Snoring occurs when the airway become partially blocked, forcing the lungs to inhale harder to compensate for the lack of air entering the body.
Snoring may increase with age. The normal aging process leads to the relaxation of the throat muscles, thus resulting in snoring.
However, snoring can also be a sign of a serious sleep disorder called sleep apnea. This means you stop breathing for periods of more than 10 seconds at a time while you sleep. Sleep apnea is serious, but there are treatments that can help. Children can also have sleep apnea. If your child snores frequently, have your health care provider check for sleep apnea.
Some possible causes of snoring include:
-- being overweight - the extra neck tissue puts pressure on the airways
-- swelling of the tissue during the last month of pregnancy
-- blockage in the nose caused by a crooked, bent, or deformed nasal septum (the structure that separates the nostrils)
-- nasal polyps - growths of inflamed tissue lining the nose (nasal mucosa) or sinuses
-- stuffed nose from a cold or allergies, especially if it lasts a long time
-- use of sleeping pills, antihistamines, or alcohol at bedtime
-- allergens in your bedroom and in your pillow
The following changes in the mouth and throat may cause snoring:
-- swelling in the roof of the mouth (soft palate) or the uvula, the piece of tissue that hangs down in the back of the mouth. These areas may also be longer than normal.
-- swollen adenoids and tonsils that block the airways
-- a large area at the base of the tongue, or a tongue that is large compared to the mouth
-- abnormalities in the bones of the face
Sometimes snoring can be a sign of a sleep disorder called sleep apnea. This means you have periods in which you completely or partly stop breathing for more than 10 seconds while you sleep. The episode is followed by a sudden snort or gasp when you start breathing again. Then you start to snore again. If you have sleep apnea, this cycle usually happens many times a night. Sleep apnea is not as common as snoring.
The following tips will reduce snoring:
-- avoid alcohol and other sedatives at bedtime.
-- do not sleep flat on your back. Sleep on your side, if possible.
-- lose weight, if you are overweight.
-- try over-the-counter, drug-free nasal strips that help widen the nostrils. (These are not treatments for sleep apnea)
-- open nasal passages (a neti pot can be used to rinse out the nasal passages with a saltwater solution)
-- try using an over-the-counter saline spray or a humidifier
-- stop smoking (smoke damages the respiratory system)
-- use an anti-snoring mouth guard
If your doctor has given you a breathing device, use it on a regular basis. Follow your health care provider's advice for treating allergy symptoms.
Talk to your health care provider if you have episodes of no breathing (apnea) or if you are snoring loudly or making choking and gasping sounds.
Children with chronic snoring should also be tested for apnea. Sleep apnea in children has been linked to growth problems, ADHD, poor school performance, learning difficulties, bedwetting, and high blood pressure.
Treatment options include:
-- dental appliances to prevent your tongue from falling back
-- weight loss
-- if you have sleep apnea, use of a CPAP mask (a device you wear on the nose while sleeping to decrease snoring and sleep apnea)
-- surgical procedures on your palate
-- surgery to correct a deviated septum or remove tonsils (tonsillectomy)
-- other types of surgery involving the airway