Snoring is not an uncommon problem. Considering about 90 million Americans snore when they sleep, you’ve probably either experienced hearing loud snoring or you’re the one doing the snoring.
Sure, it can be annoying if you have to hear it every night, but it can also be dangerous for the one snoring.
Millions of Americans are diagnosed each year with Obstructive Sleep Apnea, and the numbers continue to increase. Sleep apnea is a serious condition in which your breathing is obstructed, causing you to wake up in order to start breathing again. This can happen frequently throughout the night, sometimes an average of 30 times an hour each night or more.
With sleep apnea, the muscles in the back of your throat relax. When the muscles relax, your airway narrows or closes as you breathe in, and you can’t get an adequate breath in. This eventually lowers the level of oxygen in your blood. Your brain, sensing the inability to breathe, tries to wake you up so you can breathe. Usually you’re awake for such a short period of time, you don’t even remember waking up. Of course, because you do wake up, you’re not able to get solid REM sleep, meaning you get less meaningful sleep each night. However, some people with OSA feel they slept well during the night.
The symptoms of sleep apnea could explain a lot of things for you, for example:
- Irritability throughout the day
- Morning headaches
- Attention problems
- Sleepiness throughout the day
- Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Loud snoring, followed by silence, followed by a loud snorting, gasping, or choking sound
- Episodes of breathing cessation during sleep
Of course, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. However, there are several reasons why someone might snore while sleeping.
- AGE: Once you hit middle age, your throat becomes narrower and its muscle tone decreases.
- BODY STRUCTURE: Men are more likely to snore because their air passages are narrower. Scientists aren’t sure why that is, but it’s a difference men and women have from birth. Otherwise, a narrow throat or a cleft palate could also cause snoring.
- SINUS AND NASAL CONGESTION: This should be a no-brainer. If you’re stuffy and have trouble breathing through you nose, you’re going to snore. So when you have a stuffy nose, it’s probably going to happen.
- BEING OVERWEIGHT: Poor muscle tone and fatty tissue around the neck and throat can lead to snoring.
- SMOKING, ALCOHOL, AND MEDICATIONS: These can all lead to muscle relaxation, leading to snoring.
- SLEEP POSITION: You’re more likely to snore if you sleep on your back. You’re least likely to snore if you sleep on your side, which is the best way someone with sleep apnea can sleep.
If you think you or someone you know might have sleep apnea, it’s very important they see their doctor. This isn’t a condition that just goes away. Usually treatment is required, such as using a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine when sleeping.