Snoring is not only disruptive to your sleep quality and bothersome for your partner but can also negatively impact your health. Although dismissing snoring as a harmless quirk may be tempting, it can indicate underlying health issues.
Snoring occurs when your airways are not functioning correctly, which can be a temporary or chronic problem caused by the swelling of blood vessels in your nose when you lie down.
Occasional snoring is common and can be attributed to factors such as nasal congestion from a cold or the relaxation of throat and tongue muscles due to alcohol consumption or smoking.
However, persistent snoring may signal a more serious obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) condition. OSA is characterized by the momentary collapse of the airway due to weak or relaxed soft tissues, leading to temporary breathing cessation lasting more than 10 seconds at a time.
This condition is linked to disrupted sleep, chronic stress, inflammation, and an increased risk of various chronic health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, metabolic disorders, memory loss, and cancer.
While the snoring volume can indicate the airflow resistance level, it does not necessarily reflect the extent of sleep disruption. Warning signs of a more concerning snoring problem include choking or gasping during sleep, sudden awakenings, or feeling unrefreshed during the day.
To address snoring, it is advisable to take preventive measures. Dr. Shereen Lim, an expert in airway health, told The Guardian that focusing on preventing snoring is crucial rather than solely treating OSA. Snoring is a symptom of poor airway structure and function, which becomes more pronounced with age due to hormonal changes, weight gain, and reduced muscle tone.
Changing one sleeping position from the back to side, using aids like pillows or bed wedges, nasal sprays or strips, and practicing myofunctional therapy exercises that target facial, mouth, and tongue muscles can help alleviate mild cases of snoring.
Engaging in activities like playing the didgeridoo has been shown to reduce snoring and OSA symptoms.
Dental devices that position the lower jaw to discourage snoring may be recommended for moderate to severe cases.
Surgery is an option for more severe snoring problems, with various approaches available based on individual risk factors and aimed at restoring airway structure and function. However, the long-term effectiveness of surgery is debated among experts.
Contrary to social media suggestions, taping your mouth closed during sleep is generally considered dangerous, especially if you already have sleep apnea.
Limited evidence supports its effectiveness, and some individuals may resort to ‘mouth puffing’ instead. Therefore, it is not recommended.
Prevention is key to addressing snoring issues. Maintaining a healthy weight, strengthening core muscles, practicing good nutrition, and reducing alcohol consumption can reduce snoring.