Snoring is the sound created by vibrations of the soft palate when breathing is partially obstructed during sleep. Snoring is often a sign that the airway is partially blocked, usually by soft tissue in the throat. The flow of air causes the soft tissue to vibrate, which generates noise from the mouth or nose. While snoring is a common and usually harmless condition, it may sometimes indicate a serious health problem. Loud and habitual snoring can disrupt sleep and be irritating to sleep partners, resulting in relationship tensions. Snoring is more common in men than women and occurs more often in 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, resulting in the sounds of snoring. A blocked airway passage may be caused by the following conditions:
- Chronic nasal congestion
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Sleep apnea
- Tonsillitis or adenoiditis
- Mouth and jaw abnormalities
People who are obese may suffer from airway constriction because there is more fat tissue in the back of their throats.
Symptoms of Snoring
Snoring can disrupt sleeping patterns and deprive the individual, and any sleep partners, of proper rest. Symptoms of snoring can vary depending on the cause, and may include:
- Noise during sleep
- Sore throat in the morning
- Dry mouth
- Restless sleep
- Gasping or choking during the night
- High blood pressure
- Chest pain during the night
Snoring that disrupts sleep may cause excessive daytime sleepiness and difficulty concentrating. Heavy snorers, especially those that experience gasping or choking, may suffer from sleep apnea, a condition where snoring is frequently interrupted by periods of completely obstructed breathing.
Diagnosis of Snoring
When investigating the cause of snoring, it is important to determine whether snoring is an isolated problem or if it is related to another more serious medical condition. Snoring is diagnosed through a physical examination and a review of symptoms. X-rays or CT scans are often used view and measure the width of oral and nasal passages and to detect any abnormalities. Individuals may be referred to a sleep specialist who performs various diagnostic tests to confirm a diagnosis of sleep apnea or another sleep disorder. Some evaluations often involve overnight monitoring of breathing and other body functions during sleep.
Treatment of Snoring
There are several treatment options available for snoring, 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 methods may include:
- Losing weight
- Quitting smoking
- Sleeping on your side or stomach
- Nasal dilators or nasal strips
- Decongestant medication
When snoring interferes with normal breathing during sleep, nasal corticosteroid sprays may be prescribed to reduce inflammation in the nose and relieve congestion. Additional methods of treatment may include:
- Corrective Mouthpieces
- Injection Snoreplasty
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
In severe cases, corrective surgery may be recommended to remove the excess tissue from the nose or throat and open upper air passages to facilitate breathing. Surgical treatment may include:
- Thermal Ablation Palatoplasty
- Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy
- Genioglossus and Hyoid Advancement
- Septoplasty and Turbinate (Conchae) Surgery
A rhinoplasty may also be performed as a treatment for snoring. While most people associate rhinoplasty with the physical appearance, it is also used to help correct breathing problems caused by an abnormal shape of the septum and nasal cavity, which may cause snoring and sleep-related issues.