Why do people snore?
Our culture treats snoring as normal. In books, movies, and TV shows, snoring is how we show someone is sleeping. Kids fake snoring when they’re trying to pretend to be asleep. We even call sleeping “catching some zzz’s.” So snoring is just a part of life, right?
Snoring is the sound our bodies make when it’s hard to move air through our upper airways. It means we’re struggling to breathe. Snoring leads to microarousals, tiny periods of waking that make it impossible for our bodies to do the work of sleep.
Snoring makes it harder for our bodies to heal the damage from the day. It wreaks havoc on our hormones. It keeps our brains from processing and storing new information. It leads to daytime sleepiness, which can cause big problems at school, home, work, and on the road. Snoring is a big deal and should never be ignored.
Why do we snore?
Snoring is the sound your body makes when it’s hard to move air through the upper airway. When the airway is narrowed, it takes more force for the air to make it through. This makes a loud noise, just like blowing on a horn.
There are several main causes of snoring:
Structural issues with the airway
If your sinuses are narrowed or misshapen, that can impact airflow. Other structural issues include high, narrow palates that reduce space in the nasal cavity, deviated septums, floppy soft palates, enlarged tonsils, or tongue ties. Babies often snore because their nasal passages are so narrow that any slight blockage leads to a big breathing effort.
Illness and allergies
Allergies, sinus infections, or just the common cold all cause excess mucus and swollen nasal and sinus passages. A narrower passage means more effort to breathe and that means snoring.
Weight gain in the neck and tongue
When you have excess fat on your lower tongue or around your neck, it can compress or block your windpipe during sleep. This is a major cause of obstructive sleep apnea. (OSA).
Low muscle tone in the mouth and throat
If your muscles are poorly toned, they won’t hold their position well while you sleep and can block your airway and cause snoring.
Alcohol consumption close to bedtime
If you drink close to bedtime, it can relax your muscles so they block your airway.
Muscle relaxers and tranquilizers can also affect your breathing and cause snoring.
If you have excessive weight or poor muscle tone, sleeping flat on your back can trigger an airway collapse and make the body work harder to move air.
How to help snoring family members get better rest
If you have family members who snore, it’s important to get to the root cause. That’s because snoring impacts sleep, and sleep impacts every aspect of your mood, health, and mind. Here are a few ways to improve sleep breathing:
Make sure allergies are well treated. Over-the-counter drugs like Cetirizine (name brand Zyrtec) and Fluticasone (name brand Flonase) can help keep your nose and sinuses clear.
See a dentist, primary care physician, or ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT). These professionals can check for underlying structural issues and, if necessary, refer you for a sleep study.
Use humidifiers and HEPA filters to make your bedroom air easier to breathe. Air that is too dry or full of allergens can irritate your airways and cause them to narrow.
Check your medications. Do some of them lead to muscle relaxation that could cause snoring? Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you have concerns.
Avoid bedtime alcohol. Drink your last drink two hours before bedtime. Any closer and you’ll damage your chances of a good night’s sleep.
Sleep on your side. Side sleeping can make it easier to breathe.
Eat healthy foods and exercise. The healthier your overall lifestyle, the easier your breathing.
Learn more about sleep, snoring, and the airway so you can get your family and friends’ help.
Snoring is a sign that something has gone wrong with your sleep breathing. Take it seriously now and avoid big health problems down the road.
Dr. Meghna Dassani has practiced dentistry for over two decades and is passionate about the role dentists play in whole-body health. You can learn more at her website: MeghnaDassani.com.
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So many think these symptoms are common in kids and adults when tired. Join us as we debunk some of these common myths and put the spotlight on Sleep Apnea. Discover what constitutes healthy sleep and how we can help ourselves and our kids get the best sleep ever.