World Sleep Day 2014: Snoring – tips to prevent or treat the problem!

It was the author of A Clockwork Orange who wrote, “Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone.”

As we all well know, snoring is a problem that people have always made fun of. The fact is because that the person who sleeps with the snorer are the real sufferers, rather than the person who suffers from the problem. However, jokes apart, snoring can be a very serious problem and could also indicate a potentially life-threatening condition like OSA (obstructive sleep apnoea).

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So, as this week included World Sleep Day, maybe you should decide that it’s time to put an end to your snoring problem. For you to know what can make you stop snoring, you need to understand what snoring is, what causes it to occur, and in what way it could actually be life threatening.

What is snoring? What causes it?

Firstly, snoring is a condition that occurs when airflow is obstructed while you’re sleeping. Basically, the back of your mouth and nose is covered with soft tissues and the collapse of the soft palate at the back of your throat is the main culprit for your snore. With every incoming breath, the palate vibrates and by obstructing the airflow, causes snoring.

Why only some people snore and others don’t?

Not everyone is blessed with enough space in the nose and throat to have a soundless sleep. There are a lot of people who snore because they have narrow airways, either permanently or temporarily, for various reasons:

  • You might suddenly start snoring when you suffer from flu, blocked sinuses or allergies. This happens because your nose gets blocked and you start breathing through your mouth. When you breathe through your mouth your tongue is pushed backwards and the soft palate starts vibrating which creates the sound.
  • People who have a throat infection or tonsillitis have swelling in the throat that can obstruct the airways. This type of snoring is not serious and it goes away once you fully recover from the infection.
  • Polyps – soft growth on the linings of the nasal passage, can also cause snoring
  • People who have a deviated septum also have obstructed airways.
  • Snoring may also be genetic and it’s possible you snore because your parents do.

Why can snoring be life threatening?

Regular snorers are at a risk of serious problems like OSA (obstructive sleep apnoea). Anyone suffering from this may experience partial or complete blockage of airways when sleeping when airflow can be blocked for period of 10 seconds or more. Because the breathing is stopped, the oxygen levels in your blood drops, and these low levels of oxygen can affect all the systems in your body and actually kill you. Prolonged OSA is also linked to hypertension, heart disease and numerous other serious illnesses.

Also, if you have most of the signs of OSA, like drowsiness during the daytime due to low oxygen levels, then you may also suffer from upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS). This condition is similar to OSA but people who have this condition have a tendency to breathe heavily to overcome the resistance of obstructed airways.

Is there any permanent treatment for snoring?

There are both surgical and non-surgical treatments available for the treatment of snoring and all the procedures mostly focus on minimizing the flapping or movement of the soft palate at the back of the throat.

Surgical treatment options include:

  • Septum surgery: People having a deviated septum can choose nasal surgery
  • Surgical removal of the uvula
  • Laser assisted trimming of the soft tissues of the palate.

Non-surgical treatment options include:

  • Dental devices or mouthpieces: These devices are designed such that the lower jaw is held forward which prevents the tongue from moving behind. They have shown to improve snoring in over 90% of all cases.
  • Nasal medications: Certain nasal spray and medications can improve breathing by clearing nasal blockages for temporary help
  • Nasal devices: Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a nasal device used for treating snoring in people with OSA. It has two components: the nasal mask and a pump that controls air pressure. It is worn throughout the night and the pump provides a constant air pressure that prevents the airway narrowing during inhalation and exhalation.

If you or your partner snores, you should act on these findings and not waste another year. You may not be able to so easily celebrate World Snoring Day 2015 if you don’t.

John Redfern