SLEEP APNEA AND SNORING
Understanding Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is when the walls of the throat completely collapse, obstructing the airway. This causes you to stop breathing momentarily. The lack of oxygen triggers your brain to wake up, which restarts the normal breathing process. Usually, you lapse right back into sleep, so you don’t even notice it.
Unfortunately, this cycle of stopped breathing, waking, and going back to sleep can occur frequently – as many as 20 to 30 times per hour. The combination of fragmented sleep and oxygen deprivation may lead to hypertension, heart disease, and strokes in addition to problems with drowsiness and mood.
Of chronic snorers, approximately 18 million Americans are believed to suffer from some form of sleep apnea.
Snoring Prevention & Sleep Apnea
If you snore while sleeping, you’re not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 90 million Americans snore occasionally. Of these, 37 million are regular snorers.
Why Do People Snore?
Snoring is loosely defined as noisy breathing during sleep.
When you sleep, the muscles of your throat relax and your tongue falls backward. Your throat narrows as the muscles and tissue relax, constricting your airway. This causes vibrations in the throat as you breathe in, which create the sounds of snoring. As you breathe out, the same thing happens, but to a much lesser extent, which is why the snoring sounds on exhale are much fainter.
As your airway continues to narrow, the vibrations increase and the sound of snoring grows louder.
So What’s Wrong With Snoring?
Snoring may not seem like a big deal, but it can have serious side effects and lead to severe health issues as well.
The first and most obvious problem is the disruption of sleep, both for yourself and those around you. Fragmented sleep is not as refreshing as deep sleep, of course, and can lead to daytime drowsiness that impacts your performance. Extended sleep deprivation can have a serious effect on your total health, as well. More serious conditions include increased risk of heart disease and sleep apnea.
What Contributes to Snoring?
There are certain factors which make a tighter airway – and therefore snoring – more likely. Some of these are:
- Age. As you grow older, the natural aging process causes your throat to grow more relaxed.
- Obesity. Being overweight creates more tissue around the throat and narrows the airway, making this a significant factor in your likelihood of snoring.
- Nose and Throat Issues. Conditions like enlarged tonsils, nasal polyps, and deviated septums can cause your throat pathway to constrict more than usual.
- Respiratory Ailments. Temporary swelling or inflammation of the nose or throat, caused by conditions such as infections and allergies, can cause a tighter airway.
- Alcohol and Other Relaxants. Drinking alcohol or taking relaxants such as sleeping pills cause more relaxation in the throat than usual and can lead to snoring.
- Sleep Position. Sleeping on your back may contribute to these factors, especially with blockage from the tongue, and is more likely to lead to snoring.