Snoring is the sound created by vibrations of the soft palate when breathing is partially obstructed during sleep. While very common, occurring occasionally in about half of all adults, snoring may sometimes indicate a serious health problem. In addition, the condition can be irritating to sleep partners and result in relationship tensions. Men are more likely to snore than women and snoring is more common among older people and those who are overweight.
Causes of Snoring
When a person sleeps, throat muscles relax and vibrate as air passes through blocked passages. Snoring can be brought on by a number of conditions:
- Chronic nasal congestion
- Alcohol consumption
- Sleep apnea
- Tonsillitis or adenoiditis
- Mouth and jaw abnormalities
- Airway constriction due to obesity
Symptoms of Snoring
Often a person is not aware of snoring until someone else brings it up. Snoring may disrupt proper sleep patterns for the patient and the sleep partner. Heavy snorers may suffer from sleep apnea, a condition when snoring is frequently interrupted by periods of completely obstructed breathing. These periods without respiration may be dangerous.
Diagnosis of Snoring
It is important to diagnose whether snoring is an isolated problem or is related to another medical condition. Snorers who also suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, for example, are more likely to have an elevated risk of high blood pressure and heart attack. In diagnosing snoring, a comprehensive medical history is taken and a full physical examination is performed. The neck circumference is measured and imaging tests are often administered in order to measure the width of oral and nasal passages and to detect any abnormalities. If sleep apnea is suspected, a sleep study is performed.
Treatment of Snoring
For those with snoring issues, there are several treatment options available, ranging from home remedies to surgical intervention.
Simple changes in lifestyle, combined with over-the-counter medications, may be sufficient to alleviate minor cases of snoring. These include:
- Losing weight
- Giving up smoking
- Not sleeping on the back
- Nasal dilators, or nasal strips
- Decongestant medication
Prescriptions, Injections, Medical Devices
In more serious cases, where snoring interferes with normal breathing during sleep, prescriptions, medical interventions, or the use of corrective mechanical devices may be indicated.
Nasal Corticosteroid Sprays
These medications correct snoring by reducing inflammation in the nose and relieving congestion. They must be prescribed by the doctor.
Custom corrective mouthpieces are form-fitting dental appliances that help to improve airflow by realigning the position of the jaw and tongue. These bite plates are fitted by a dentist and require maintenance visits to check the fit and monitor the condition.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
Continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, involves the patient wearing a pressurized mask over their nose while asleep. The mask pumps air through the airway to keep the breathing passage open.