Causes of SnoringSnoring has many potential causes, including obesity, anatomical variations, and several illnesses affecting the upper airways. It results from the vibration of soft tissues of the upper airways and often is associated with obstruction of airflow.
If it's due to a significant airway obstruction, snoring is associated with serious health problems, like high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Snoring is made worse by alcohol and other sedatives.
- Overweight people are more prone to snoring.
- Sleeping on your back increases the chances of snoring.
- Colds, nasal polyps, and allergies make snoring worse.
- Older people often snore due to muscular weakness that occurs with age.
- Certain medications may cause dryness or minor irritation of the nasal passageways and increase the incidence of snoring.
- A larger-than-usual uvula can limit airflow and cause snoring.
- Injuries to the nose that result in a deviated septum may result in snoring.
- Smokers are more likely to snore.
Sleep ApneaSometimes, people who snore also suffer from sleep apnea. Apnea refers to periods of interrupted breathing that can last ten seconds or longer. It's essentially the same physiological process as snoring, except that the muscles relax so much they cause a complete, rather than partial, obstruction of the airway.
When sleep apnea occurs, carbon dioxide accumulates in the bloodstream and oxygen levels fall. The brain detects these changes and reacts by waking the person up so that normal breathing can resume. Sleep apnea can occur several times a night, disrupting normal restorative sleep. Clues that your snoring is more than just a nuisance include falling asleep during normal daytime activities, a frequent need to urinate at night (nocturia), or morning headaches.
Self-Help Ideas to Prevent or Minimize Snoring
- Losing weight may help prevent snoring.
- Avoid alcohol and rich foods before bedtime.
- Quit smoking.
- Try raising your head by putting pillows under it.
- Sleep on your side. Some people sew a tennis ball on the back of their pajamas to help them avoid turning onto their back.
- Blow your nose before going to bed.
Medical Help for SnoringIf none of the self-help ideas work, you may need a doctor's help. The first step might be to try an oral appliance that helps to keep your airway open. Other treatment options, such as nasal sprays or nasal plasters, may also be considered. Surgery could be performed if the cause of the snoring is a deviated septum or enlarged tonsils or adenoids.
Medically reviewed on 2/8/2012