Countless people suffer from snoring, but few research the causes of this condition. If you are affected by snoring or feel the effects of another person’s snoring, the information below may help you pinpoint the exact type you’re dealing with, and treatments that may help to alleviate it.
Types of Snoring
Snoring can be broken down into the following categories: nasal snoring, mouth snoring, and tongue snoring.
Nasal snoring occurs when nasal passages have been blocked by those suffering from ailments like colds, flu, and allergies. These blockages in the nasal passages force an increasing amount of air through your mouth, creating a vibration which translates into a snoring sound.
Since this type of snoring results from blocked nasal passages, which many times come from nasal allergies, the culprit can be any allergen lurking in your household – including pet dander, outdoor pollen which has entered through open windows, dust, or even dust mites that are hiding in the bedding.
Another potential cause of nasal snoring could be a defect in your nasal passages, such as the condition known as a deviated septum. A deviated septum is a condition in which the thin wall that separates your right and left nasal passages bulges to one side, resulting in a restricted airflow to the affected nasal passage. It can show little to no symptoms, with many affected not realizing they even suffer from this issue. A deviated septum can be a congenital defect or can be the product of an injury.
"Mouth Snoring" is the result of the soft tissues of the palate vibrating against one other. It’s common to those who breathe through their mouths while sleeping, and in particular, can occur when those who breathe through their mouths sleep on their backs or on their sides.
Your tongue can play a big part in snoring, as it can block or restrict airflow to your lungs. The tissues in your mouth and throat naturally relax as you sleep, and your tongue can relax to the point that it deviates from its normal position and ends up farther back in your throat.
This type of snoring is quite common and is often exacerbated using alcohol, antihistamines, or sleep aids before bed, as this further relaxes the soft tissues of the palate.
Sleep Apnea or OSA
Another potential cause of snoring is the condition known as Sleep Apnea. This is common, and normally chronic, condition characterized by long pauses between breaths during sleep. Oftentimes the pauses are followed by gasping or a loud snort, which may or may not wake the person affected. As with a deviated septum, sleep apnea sufferers are many times not aware they suffer from this condition, and in many cases, it’s your sleeping partner who notices the patterns associated with sleep apnea.
The most prevalent type of sleep apnea is what is known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which is caused by blockages in various places throughout the airway. When air is forced through these blockages, a loud snore can be the result.
OSA can be the result of many, or a combination of, factors, including obesity (which can also be a result of sleep apnea), an enlarged tongue or tonsils, or the natural shape and structure of your body.
Besides snoring, symptoms of OSA can include fatigue, dry mouth, restless sleep, and headaches. Diagnosing sleep apnea usually involves a sleep study, a test in which your body’s functioning is monitored in a laboratory environment while you sleep.
OSA can be a potentially serious issue, so if you suspect you may suffer from this medical condition you should discuss the problem with your physician.
The treatment of snoring can vary widely according to the root cause, which may involve your own detective work, consulting with your family physician, and laboratory testing.
Once the root cause of your snoring is uncovered, treatments and recommendations may include weight loss, the use of antihistamines, and lifestyle changes. If your snoring is the result of OSA, your doctor may recommend the use of a CPAP machine, which supplies your body with a continuous supply of oxygen, thereby keeping the airways open.
Other, potentially less invasive, therapies can include the use of a mouthpiece specifically designed to position your mouth and tongue in a way that alleviates snoring. Pillows, too, can be designed to decrease the likelihood of snoring by encouraging you to sleep in more favorable positions, and in some cases, can detect your breathing patterns during sleep.
If you think allergies may be the cause of your snoring, simply replacing or cleaning your bed or bedding might be a good place to start, as allergens such as dust, dust mites, or pet dander tend to collect in these areas.
If another person’s snoring is causing you to suffer, keep in mind your observations can play an integral part in their diagnosis and treatment.