Sept.18: COVER STORY
All you wanted to know about snoring
Adopt 10 natural ways to curb the problem
Have you ever had to wear earplugs to block out the sounds of someone snoring nearby? If so, you know what a nuisance it can be. A person who snores often becomes a source of irritation or the butt of jokes. But snoring is no laughing matter. Not only is it a social problem as it disrupts the sleep of others, it can also be a sign of a serious medical problem.
SnoringÂ is a common condition that can affect anyone, although it occurs more frequently in men and people who areÂ overweight. It has a tendency to worsen with age. Approximately 70% of snoring is hereditary. The average snore can reach between 60 decibels (normal conversation level) and 90 decibels (as loud as a power lawnmower).
What is snoring?
Simply put, snoring is noisy breathing during sleep. It is a harsh, rattling sound resulting from turbulent airflow that causes the tissues of the nose and throat to vibrate during sleep. When we are asleep, the area at the back of the throat sometimes narrows as the muscles relax, and even closes temporarily. The passing of air through this smaller opening more rapidly can cause the tissues surrounding the opening to vibrate, which causes the sounds of snoring.
There are several factors which causing snoring. First, the normalÂ agingÂ process leads to the relaxation of the throat muscles resulting in snoring. Anatomical abnormalities of the nose and throat, such as enlarged tonsils or adenoids, nasal polyps, or deviated nasal septum cause exaggerated narrowing of the throat during sleep.
Also, functional abnormalities (such as inflammation of the nose and/or throat as may occur during respiratory infection or during allergy season) will result in snoring. Sleep position, such as sleeping on your back, may lead to snoring in some people. Alcohol is a potent muscle relaxant and its ingestion in the evening will cause snoring. Muscle relaxants taken in the evening may have similar effect. One of the most important risk factors isÂ obesity,Â and in particular having a lot of fatty tissue around the neck.
Snoring and sleep apnea
Snoring is often associated with a serious sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). About one-half of people who snore loudly have OSA. OSA is characterized by multiple episodes of breathing pauses greater than 10 seconds at a time, due to upper airway narrowing or collapse. Untreated OSA can lead to hypertension, heart attacks and strokes. It can also lead to accidents while driving or operating machinery due to daytime drowsiness.
Not all snorers have OSA, but if snoring is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, it may be an indication to see a doctor for further evaluation:
- Breathing pauses during sleep
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Morning headaches
- Sore throat upon awakening
- Restless sleep
- Gasping or choking at night
- High blood pressure
- Chest pain at night
Simple remedies for snoring
Here are 10 natural ways in which snoring can be reduced:
Change your sleep position:Â Snoring is typically most frequent and loudest when sleeping on the back as gravity’s effect on the throat narrows the airway. Sleeping on your side may help. If you are sleeping on the back, elevate the head of the bed by four inches.
Lose weight: People who are overweight may have extra tissues in the back of their throats that may narrow their airways. Weight loss helps stop snoring in some cases.
Avoid alcohol and sedatives: Like alcohol, sedativesÂ too relax muscles, causing them to collapse.Â AlcoholÂ should be avoided for at least four hours prior to sleep. Take sleeping pills only if strictly necessary and under the guidance of a doctor.
Practise good sleep hygiene: Working long hours without enough sleep may mean that when you finally hit the sack you are overtired. You sleep hard and deep and the muscles hang loosely causing snoring.
Relieve nasal obstruction: A hot shower before bed can help open nasal passages. Nasal strips, nasal sprays, antihistamines and a room humidifier can help reduceÂ nasal inflammationÂ and obstruction that leads to snoring.
Change your pillows: Dust mites and other allergens in the bedroom or your pillow may contribute to snoring. Keep pets out of the bedroom as animal dander is a common irritant.
Stay well hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids. Secretions in your nose and soft palate become stickier when you are dehydrated causing snoring.
Throat exercises: Strengthening weak muscles in the neck and throat withÂ exercisesÂ can help them from collapsing during sleep.
Take singing lessons: Joining a choir or taking singing lessons could help. A UK study found that a programme of vocal exercises designed by a choir director helped reduce snoring.
Quit smoking: Tobacco smokeÂ is an irritant that can result in tissueÂ inflammation.
Oral appliance: A custom-fittedÂ oral applianceÂ (similar to a retainer or mouth guard) helps keep the airway open by moving the tongue and jaw slightly forward.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): The delivery of pressurized air through aÂ nasalÂ orÂ face maskÂ into the back of the throat thus preventing it from collapse is a common treatment for snoring caused by moderate or severe OSA.
Surgery: Because of the low success rates and potential health risks, surgery should only be considered as a last resort.
Children and snoring
While snoring is more common among adults, around 5-7% of children are habitual snorers. Roughly 2% of the pediatric population suffers fromÂ OSA with the main cause being enlarged tonsils and adenoids. If your child snores, it’s probably a good idea to take them to an ENT specialist to rule out these problems.
Sources: www.medicinenet.com, sleepfoundation.org,www.webmd.com,www.medicalnewstoday.com