Snoring: not funny, not hopeless

Forty-five percent of normal adults snore at least occasionally, and 25 percent are habitual snorers. Problem snoring is more frequent in males and overweight persons, and it usually grows worse with age.

More than 300 devices are registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as cures for snoring. Some are variations on the old idea of sewing a sock that holds a tennis ball on the pyjama back to force the snorer to sleep on his side. (Snoring is often worse when a person sleeps on his back).

Some devices reposition the lower jaw forward; some open nasal air passages; a few others have been designed to condition a person not to snore by producing unpleasant stimuli when snoring occurs. But, if you snore, the truth is that it is not under your control whatsoever. If anti-snoring devices work, it is probably because they keep you awake.

What Causes Snoring?

The noisy sounds of snoring occur when there is an obstruction to the free flow of air through the passages at the back of the mouth and nose. This area is the collapsible part of the airway (see illustration) where the tongue and upper throat meet the soft palate and uvula. Snoring occurs when these structures strike each other and vibrate during breathing.

People who snore may suffer from:

Is Snoring Serious?

Socially, yes! It can be, when it makes the snorer an object of ridicule and causes others sleepless nights and resentfulness.

Medically, yes! It disturbs sleeping patterns and deprives the snorer of appropriate rest. When snoring is severe, it can cause serious, long-term health problems, including obstructive sleep apnoea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

When loud snoring is interrupted by frequent episodes of totally obstructed breathing, it is known as obstructive sleep apnoea. Serious episodes last more than ten seconds each and occur more than seven times per hour. Apnoea patients may experience 30 to 300 such events per night. These episodes can reduce blood oxygen levels, causing the heart to pump harder.

The immediate effect of sleep apnoea is that the snorer must sleep lightly and keep his muscles tense in order to keep airflow to the lungs. Because the snorer does not get a good rest, he may be sleepy during the day, which impairs job performance and makes him a hazardous driver or equipment operator. After many years with this disorder, elevated blood pressure and heart enlargement may occur.

Can Heavy Snoring be cured?

Heavy snorers, those who snore in any position or are disruptive to the family, should seek medical advice to ensure that sleep apnoea is not a problem. An otolaryngologist will provide a thorough examination of the nose, mouth, throat, palate, and neck. A sleep study in a laboratory environment may be necessary to determine how serious the snoring is and what effects it has on the snorer’s health.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the diagnosis. An examination will reveal if nasal allergy, infection, deformity, or tonsils and adenoids cause the snoring.
Snoring or obstructive sleep apnoea may respond to various treatments now offered by many otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeons:

Self-Help for the Light Snorer

Adults who suffer from mild or occasional snoring should try the following self-help remedies:

Remember, snoring means obstructed breathing, and obstruction can be serious. It’s not funny, and not hopeless.

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