What is snoring?
Snoring occurs when air moves over relaxed tissues in the throat, causing the tissues to vibrate during breathing. This results in a characteristic "snoring" sound.
What are the causes of snoring?
While the causes of snoring can vary, some common factors that lend themselves to snoring include:
- Nasal conditions, such as a blocked nasal passage or swollen tissues due to allergies, upper respiratory infection, or a deviated nasal septum
- Sleep apnea (also known as apnea or obstructive sleep apnea). This disorder causes interruptions of breathing during sleep. These interruptions must be at least 10 seconds long to merit a diagnosis of apnea. Episodes often occur in conjunction with snoring.
- Certain medications, especially those with "drowsy" side effects
- Drinking alcohol
Who is likely to snore?
Snoring is common - over 30 percent of adults snore on a weekly basis, and those who are overweight may be at an increased risk. Children with enlarged tonsils are also more prone to snore.
How is snoring diagnosed?
A physical exam by a doctor and a detailed medical history are helpful. Partners and parents are often included in the doctor's appointment to provide insight about the nature and frequency of snoring. A further referral to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor (otolaryngologist) or sleep specialist may be recommended.
What is the conventional treatment of snoring?
Achieving a healthy weight, abstaining from alcohol near bedtime and changing sleeping positions can all help. Other treatments include the use of:
- Oral appliances, such as the small plastic devices similar to orthodontic retainers or mouth guards
- Nasal strips, spring-tensioned adhesives which pull the nasal passages open
- Traditional surgery (uvulopalatopharyngoplasty) which removes the soft tissue from the throat to improve airflow. Laser surgery is also an option
- Radio frequency tissue ablation (or somnoplasty), which uses high-intensity radio waves to removes throat tissue
- A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device, which holds airways open by pressurizing air through a mask into the nose and mouth during sleep
What therapies does Dr. Weil recommend for snoring?
Dr. Weil recommends losing weight if you are overweight, and if you have sleep apnea, using a CPAP device at night to prevent interruptions in breathing during sleep.
How is snoring prevented?
Simple changes to your lifestyle can help to lessen the effects or risk of snoring. These include:
- Achieving a healthy weight
- Sleeping on your side
- Using nasal strips
- Treating nasal congestion or obstruction
- Decreasing or abstaining from alcohol consumption and avoiding sedatives
For children who snore, the National Sleep Foundation suggests that parents be aware of sleep problems such as difficulty falling asleep, nighttime awakening, resisting going to bed, trouble breathing, or loud or heavy breathing while sleeping. Discuss these issues with your pediatrician.