What is Snoring?
Snoring is simply a sound caused by vibration during breathing. The vibration is the result of a partially blocked airway in the mouth, nose, or throat. Snoring is obnoxious, loud, persistent and a sleep disruptor.
What causes Snoring?
Snoring is caused by the vibration of soft tissues in the nose and/or throat when you breathe. The base of the tongue and the soft palate can fall back during deep sleep, occluding the airways. When we don’t have a full blockage the soft tissue vibrates creating loud noises that we describe as snoring. There are a lot of contributing factors to snoring including weight, age, gender, neck circumference, strength of the muscles around the neck and the muscles we use to breathe, as well as drug and alcohol use.
Nose vs Mouth Breathing
Breathing through your nose is actually the optimal way to breathe during sleep.
Breathing through your mouth results in the jaw falling back and the soft tissue attached to the jaw to fall back which inadvertently causes the airway to be obstructed. Breathing through the nose is superior as mouth breathing causes turbulent airflow and doesn’t allow for a smooth transition of airflow down the airways to the lungs.
Nose breathing warms and humidifies inhaled air and breathing is really the nose’s core function. There are very few exceptions to when we should be breathing through the mouth such as vigorous exercise.
Breathing through the nose filters and humidifies the air we breathe into our lungs. In turn this improves gas exchange in the lungs and heaps improve sleep. If we breathe predominantly through our mouths it becomes more likely that the soft tissue in our airways will collapse and create snoring and blockages.
By design the nose creates more resistance whilst breathing. This helps to slow down and control breathing rate which in turn keeps the PH in the blood balanced which helps cells all around the body feel happy and healthy. Replicating this kind of breathing through the mouth would be next to impossible and require a lot of conscious effort.
There are some simple tests to see if the snoring you are experiencing is from mouth or nose breathing. Talk to our Sleep Physician for more information.
What are the Consequences of Untreated Snoring?
There are a number of consequences of snoring that vary depending on the severity, frequency and whether or not the person is also suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. Some of the issues arising from snoring are:
Excessive daytime sleepiness
If you don’t sleep well it’s no secret that you’ll likely be tired during the day. We can monitor daytime sleepiness using the epworth sleepiness scale which is a self reporting tool that identifies just how sleepy we get by performing different activities and tasks.
Poor sleep has been closely linked to a reduced mental acuity and snoring and obstructive sleep apnea are two of the biggest culprits for poor sleep. Treating these conditions will likely improve your capacity to function mentally during the day.
Sore throat from snoring
A common trait for patients that snore is that they will breathe through their mouth while they sleep.
Your snoring is so loud it’s disrupting your partner’s sleep
Around 45% of Men and around 25% of women frequently snore. There have been studies that show the bed partners of snorers often suffer more than the snorer themselves so the question remains “why is that”. One of the reasons is that you are so close to the person snoring. Snoring is loud and annoying enough from a distance let alone 2 feet away. But more than any of this is the fact that snoring is irregular, the frequency and pitch and the intervals of sound are constantly changing. Unlike white noise or other helpful “get to sleep” soothing sounds, snoring sits on the other end of the spectrum. And from there the bed partner can become focused on the fact that the snoring is keeping them awake which will amplify the effects and sustain sleeplessness.
What are the Available Treatments?
CPAP or APAP therapy, where you are connected to an “air pump” that creates Positive Airway Pressure and pumps air into the lungs is an option to treat snoring.
Pillows and devices to keep a snorer on their side can be utilised and can be relatively effective for those that often snore on their side.
Inspiratory muscle training can be effective in improving snoring as it strengthens the muscle around the upper airways and the diaphragm which is the main muscle that brings air into the lungs.
Surgery can be utilised for patients that do not achieve adequate therapy with the above therapeutic options. It can be used as a last resort by doctors to open the airways but should never be considered or presented to patients as a first option.
Talk to our Sleep experts to find the best individualised treatment to help you stop snoring.