Why do people snore?
Snoring happens when sound is produced from the vibration of the soft tissues in the airway as air passes through it during the normal breathing cycle. The airway is naturally composed of soft and collapsible tissues that get more prone to vibration as the airway narrows. The soft tissues vibrate because of the air turbulence produced by the narrowed air passages. Narrowing of the air passages can be due to anatomical deviations of the soft tissues in the airway because of anatomical defects, allergies, trauma, and excessive fat deposition or sometimes due to the weakening of the throat muscles causing the airway tissue to collapse.
Sleep Apnea and Snoring Can Be Helped
The sound produced by soft tissue vibrations can range from soft rumbles to very loud noises that can cause sleep deprivation not only for other people but also to the one who is snoring! Since a rejuvenating sleep is sacred for all and inadequate sleep is associated with a myriad of problems that can affect a person’s health, well-being and productivity, identifying snoring causes and taking steps to try to control them is something that must not be delayed. Below are some factors that may predispose a person to snoring:
- Overweight and Obesity – generally, people who are overweight or obese have a lot of fat deposits in the neck area, contributing to a greater chance of airway narrowing. Fat can also be deposited directly on the tissues of the soft palate. People who lost weight reported decreased snoring bouts when they sleep.
- Gender– more of a determining factor rather than snoring cause, research suggests that men are more likely to have narrowed air passages as they become older.
- Age – As people get older, muscles lose their tone. The throat muscles are of no exception.Weaker muscles can cause the soft tissues of the airway to collapse and create obstructions. Coupled with the fact that as one gets older, the airway physiologically becomes narrower, age really is an important factor in snoring.
- Anatomy – Sometimes a person may have anatomical quirks that predispose him/her to snoring. These anatomical quirks may be caused by trauma, diseases or allergies but they may also be congenital in nature (inborn). These cause unwanted obstructions in the airway. Some examples are as follows:
Ø Nasal septum deviation – the displacement of the bone dividing the two nostrils may cause airway obstruction and snoring. Ø Enlarged adenoids – adenoids are tissues in the back of the throat that serve as a pit stop for white blood cells. Adenoids play a vital role in protecting the body from bacteria and viruses. Too large adenoids may be congenital or may be caused by allergies.
- Sleep position – people who snore are frequently grouped into two: positional snorers and non-positional snorers. Positional snorers only snore because of their sleeping position. Usually, sleeping on one’s back (in a supine position) causes the base of the tongue to collapse into the airway causing obstruction and snoring. For these snorers, sleeping on one’s side will do the trick to stop snoring. Non-positional snorers on the other hand, snore regardless of their sleeping position and snoring may be caused by other snoring causes that are/will be mentioned.
- Sleep stage – Snoring commonly happens during stage 2 of sleep where relaxation of the muscles and the brain starts. Relaxation of the throat muscles can cause collapse of the upper airway tissues causing its vibration as air passes through it.
- Sedatives and alcohol intake – sedatives and alcohol intake before bed time greatly increase the chance of snoring because these substances are known to be muscle depressants. When the throat muscles relax too much as a result of the effects of these substances, then snoring happens
- Sleep apnea – particularly loud and frequent snoring can signal the presence of a more serious medical condition called sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is one of the most notorious of snoring causes because it can be life-threatening. Sleep apnea is characterized by pauses in breathing while sleeping. People who suffer from sleep apnea commonly wake up when the carbon dioxide in the blood is too high. Frequent waking causes failure to establish a deep sleep and as a result, mood changes and memory problems may happen during the day. Death can occur due to lack of oxygen in the body. Of the three types of sleep apnea, the most commonly associated with snoring is called obstructive sleep apnea.