Snoring is a sound generated due to partial obstruction in the nose, oral passage or throat area. It is very common and studies have shown it can happen in up to a third of individuals with it being more common in men. It sometimes happen insidiously and gets louder over the years. More importantly it can sometimes be associated with a dangerous medical condition known as obstructive sleep apnoea.
Snoring happens due to obstruction from the upper airway. Frequently it is a combination of obstruction in the nasal passages, oral passages or throat area.
The picture shows possible causes of snoring in an individual. The same sites of obstruction can also lead to obstructive sleep apnoea.
If you have allergic rhinitis or chronic sinusitis or large tonsils, you will have increased chances of snoring. For snoring to be thoroughly evaluated, you have to see an ENT specialist for further evaluation.
There are several anti-snoring devices out in the market. Some examples include chin straps to keep the mouth closed for mouth breathers, breathe rite strips to increase nasal passages, “microCPAP” devices, or nasal stents to keep the nasal valves open. Most do not work well and some can even be dangerous. For example for people who mouth breathe and snore, opening the mouth to take in air during sleep is a compensatory mechanism due to nasal passage obstruction. By closing off the mouth, you are now depriving the body of alternate source of airflow. As such you are at risk of lower oxygen levels during sleep and suffering from conditions like obstructive sleep apnoea.
Treating the source of obstruction. If you have allergic rhinitis or chronic sinusitis, see an ENT specialist to get it treated. If you have put on weight resulting in increased neck circumference, this will lead to increased snoring due to a narrower air passage behind the tongue. Exercise, weight loss and a healthy diet will help in the condition. Sleeping on the side (either side is fine) would be better than sleeping flat on your back. Interestingly in the 1970s, people used to be advised to sew a golf ball in the back of their pajamas when they slept to ensure they sleep on their side rather than flat on their back as a way to reduce snoring.
Snoring can be unhealthy in a relationship if it disturbs the bed partners. Sleep is important for one’s well being and if it disturbs the bed partners, it can result in a strained relationship. I have patients whose wife make the husband sleep in a separate room just be cause of the snoring.
More importantly if the snoring is associated with sleep apnoea, it can result in a lot of medical problems.