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All About Snoring – What Can You Do?

Snoring. We either do it ourselves or know someone who does. And let’s be honest – it’s not the most flattering thing. Whether it’s you, or maybe a partner, it is good to know ways to help. 

Kathryn Palmer, a sleep medicine nurse practitioner at Banner Health Clinic in Colorado, gives her expertise on the subject.

What exactly is snoring?

Kathryn shares that snoring is basically the tongue and soft palate within our mouths relaxing during sleep. This relaxation can cause them to fall back and partly block the airway.

Then, the vibration of the soft tissues in the upper airway happens with the air going in and out of the lungs. This is what causes the snoring.

Some people might also have a narrow airway, which likely causes snoring.

Can snoring affect my health?

Snoring can be an indicator of a sleep disorder – specifically obstructive sleep apnea or OSA. Kathryn says that OSA occurs when the airway becomes so narrow or blocked that the movement of air is reduced or even stopped. This causes the oxygen level to drop, since no air is reaching the lungs. Because of this lack of oxygen, heart rate and blood pressure increase.

OSA is a serious medical condition, and you should speak with your doctor if you think this could be happening to you. The consequences can include increased risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular problems such as:

Beyond obstructive sleep apnea, other conditions can cause the airway to become narrow. These include:

  • Obesity
  • Nasal congestion
  • Craniofacial abnormalities
  • Enlargement of tonsils and adenoids

Kathryn notes that further testing is needed to determine your specific cause of snoring. This will help in finding the appropriate course of treatment and assessing your health risk.

How does snoring affect sleep?

Sleep is a big part of your overall health and well-being. Therefore, beyond the health risks associated with snoring itself, snoring can also disrupt your sleep – or even your partner’s sleep.

Kathryn says that sleep is important to allow individuals to function well during the day, have energy, maintain a healthy immune system and ensure optimal mental health. A partner can have difficulty sleeping alongside snoring, which leads to insufficient sleep. 

Those with obstructive sleep apnea typically have fragmented sleep. Because of this, they often report difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep at night. They might awaken choking or gasping for air. This can cause non-restorative sleep, making them feel very tired during the day.

What can you do about it?

This is a very important question to discuss with your doctor, to help find treatment that fits your needs. Treatment is especially important for those who think they might have OSA. 

The doctor will typically suggest different types of devices such as a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine or a mandibular advancement device. Both keep the airway open to prevent the snoring and stopped breathing. 

If OSA is not the cause of snoring, still visit your doctor before initiating treatments. An ear, nose and throat specialist might suggest:

  • Weight loss – for those who snore due to being overweight
  • Cessation of smoking and drinking alcohol several hours before bedtime
  • Treatment of nasal congestion
  • Oral appliances

For more information on sleep disorder testing or to find a specialist who can help, click here

Sleep Pulmonology and Asthma Ear, Nose and Throat Men's Health
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