Why do we snore?
Snoring occurs when a turbulent flow of air through the nose and throat causes the tissues in the throat to vibrate during sleep.
While occasional snoring is common and often harmless, chronic and loud snoring can disrupt sleep, lead to daytime fatigue, cause relationship problems and may signify more serious health issues.
Some common causes include:
Relaxation of The Throat Muscles. When we sleep, the muscles in our throat and tongue relax. This relaxation can lead to a narrowing of the airway, making it more likely for the airflow to vibrate the floppy tissues. The tone of the muscles reduces with age and is affected by sedative medication and beverages.
Nasal Blockage. If the nasal passages are partially blocked, for example due to congestion from a cold, allergies, a deviated septum or nasal polyps; airflow will be restricted and become turbulent.
Mouth Breathing. Especially if it’s associated with nasal congestion, pushes the tongue back into the throat, narrowing the space above the voice-box.
Sleep Position. Sleeping on your back can sometimes cause the tongue and soft palate to collapse to the back of the throat.
An Increase in Weight. Excess bulk around the neck, can also compress the airway.
Alcohol and Sedatives. The use of alcohol or sedatives can relax the muscles in the throat, making them floppy.
Anatomical Factors. Some individuals may have anatomical features that predispose them to snore. For example, a low, thick, soft palate, an elongated uvula or an enlarged adenoid lump or tonsils can cause airway obstruction and snoring.
Sleep Apnoea. In some cases, snoring may be a symptom of sleep apnoea, a more serious sleep disorder where breathing repeatedly stops or slows down during sleep.
Lifestyle changes and non-Invasive treatment to help reduce snoring
There are several lifestyle changes that may help reduce snoring. Here are some simple measures to try:
Change Sleep Position. Sleeping on your side may help prevent the tongue and soft palate from collapsing to the back of the throat.
Maintain a Healthy Weight. Losing excess weight, especially around the neck, can reduce external compression on the airway and decrease snoring. Try to obtain a BMI close to 25.
Avoid Alcohol and Sedatives. Avoid consuming alcohol or sedative medication before bedtime, as they can relax the muscles in the throat.
Treat Nasal Congestion. If nasal congestion is a contributing factor, try using a saline nasal spray before bedtime. Inhaling steam or using a humidifier in the bedroom may also help. I would not recommend taking nasal decongestant drops for more than a few days.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene. Go to bed at a regular time. Avoid caffeine and strenuous activity close to bedtime. Create a comfortable sleep environment with a supportive mattress and pillows. Keep the bedroom well-ventilated and maintain a cool temperature (18-20 degrees Centigrade).
Stay Hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep the tissues in your throat well-hydrated, firm and moist which may soften the noise of snoring.
Limit Meals Before Bed. Consuming heavy meals close to bedtime can worsen snoring by relaxing the throat muscles and increasing gastric juices (refluxate) into the throat.
Regular Exercise. Engaging in regular physical activity can help improve muscle tone, including the muscles in the throat. Avoid vigorous exercise too close to bedtime as this can disrupt sleep.
Use Anti-Snoring Devices. You might consider using over-the-counter devices, such as nasal sticky strips, internal nasal dilators, mouth tape or mandibular advancement devices (MADs). These devices work on opening up the different anatomical structures in your airway