Snoring: Signs and Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Snoring is a condition that causes a sleeping patient to produce guttural or hoarse sound while breathing. This condition occurs when the throat is partially blocked while asleep. As the throat muscles relax, the soft tissues tend to vibrate while breathing, causing snoring sounds.

Snoring does not discriminate, men, women, children and even infants may snore. This condition tends to worsen with age. Although occasional snoring is not a serious condition, it may be a sign of an underlying health ailment.

The quality of your sleep (as well as your partner’s) will be affected if you are a habitual snorer. If your partner is a loud snorer and your sleep quality is affected by it, you can wear earplugs to reduce the annoying sounds and get some shut-eye.Sometimes, medical assistance is needed for heavy snorers.

Signs and Symptoms of Snoring

Snoring is often linked with another sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea or OSA. However, not all habitual snorers suffer from OSA. If you suspect that you’re suffering from apnea induced snoring, consult your doctor. Below are the most common signs and symptoms of snoring:

  • Producing hoarse or guttural noise while asleep
  • Sore throat
  • Restless sleep
  • Severe daytime sleepiness
  • Lack of mental focus
  • Producing choking or gasping sound at night
  • Hypertension
  • Chest tightness at night
  • Disruption of sleep pattern (yours or your partner’s)
  • Gasping or choking at night

If you are suffering any of the symptoms above, have yourself checked by your physician. The same thing goes if your child suffers from snoring. Children may also suffer from OSA-induced snoring and most times, snoring is indicative of nose and throat problems.

When left untreated, severe snoring may lead to sleep apnea, wakefulness at night, sleep deprivation, light sleeping, arterial and heart problems. The lack of sleep may also lead to daytime sleepiness, which may affect the quality of your life and increase the risk of accidents. Loud snoring may also cause your partner to suffer from insomnia and other sleep disorders.

Image used under Creative Commons from April Pink

Causes of Snoring

Generally, snoring is caused when the airflows are partially obstruction and this may be caused by a combination of factors, including:

Blocked Nasal Airways: There are cases wherein snoring is caused by allergies, sinus infection, deformed nose (deviated septum) or nasal polyps.

Nasal Issues: Snoring may be caused by poor muscle tone in the tongue and throat. When the muscles in these areas are too lax, they collapse and fall back in the airways, causing blockages that impede airflow. Alcohol consumption, aging, deep sleep, or taking sleeping pills/tranquilizers cause poor muscle tone.

Obesity: Obesity is also a factor that causes snoring. When you’re overweight, the throat tissues become larger, bulkier. As the throat tissues grow in size, the airways become blocked.

Mouth Anatomy: In some cases, children with large tonsils will also snore. Having long soft palate and/or uvula may also increase the risk of snoring. When these soft tissues are longer, they tend to bump into each other, partially blocking the airways.

Alcohol Consumption: Alcohol consumptions causes deep sleep, which may relax the throat muscles to a point that they cause airway obstruction.

Sleep Position: How you sleep at night may also increase the risk of snoring. Generally, people who sleep on their back are likely to snore the loudest because the gravity affects the throat muscles in a way that causes them to block the airways.

Sleep Apnea: Snoring is associated with obstructive sleep apnea for a reason. When the throat muscles are partially or completely blocked while you sleep, breathing stops and you don’t even realize it! If snoring is followed by a few seconds of silence, it’s a sign of an OSA-induced snoring.

Treating Snoring

Treating snoring usually includes lifestyle changes (losing weight, avoiding alcoholic beverages, avoiding sleeping on the back or abstaining from sleeping pills), oral appliances, wearing a pressurized mask over the nose called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), and surgery.

Extreme treatments like wearing a CPAP or surgery are only recommended for severe snoring or those suffering from sleep apnea. Usually, wearing dental mouthpiece is enough to reduce snoring. Palatal implants or pillar procedure is also recommended. The procedure involves injecting braided strands of polyester filament directly into the soft palate to stiffen the organ and prevent extreme relaxation during sleep.

Image used under Creative Commons from Tom Hart

Traditional surgery is also recommended for severe cases of snoring. The procedure involves tightening or trimming excess soft tissues in the throat area or shortening the soft palate using laser or removing the uvula completely. Somnoplasty or radiofrequency tissue ablation is also a long-term solution for extreme snoring. It involves using a low-intensity radiofrequency signal to shrink soft tissues and reduce vibrations in the throat area.