Snoring is a commonly encountered condition which can affect anyone. However, it occurs more among men and overweight individuals. It has been seen that snoring often worsens with aging. Based on the occurrence of the condition, snoring is classified as occasional snoring and habitual snoring. Occasional snoring is often harmless and nothing to worry about. Habitual snoring on the other hand can be serious issue which can affect the quality of sleep from disrupted sleep pattern. It is also a nuisance for the affected individual’s bed partner. In large number of cases, medical assistance is recommended for management of this condition.
Causes of Snoring
Snoring is caused due to obstruction of airflow through the nose leading to airflow through the mouth instead. The most common causes of obstructed airflow are listed below:
Obstructed Nasal Airways: Obstruction of nasal airway can be temporary or permanent. In temporary cases, snoring may be noticed only during winter seasons, when allergy happen the most, or when affected by sinus infection. Permanent cases include obstruction from deviated nasal septum or nasal polyps.
Poor Muscle Tone in the Tongue and Throat: Poor muscle tone can cause relaxation of the muscles of the tongue and throat causing them to collapse and fall back into the airway. This is often associated with alcohol intake, deep sleep, side effects of sleeping pills etc. Aging can also cause loss of muscle tone in the tongue and throat.
Bulky Throat Tissue as a Reason for Snoring: Excessive weight gain can cause fat deposition over the throat area causing bulky throat tissue. This promotes snoring. Children with enlarged tonsils and adenoids can also experience obstruction of airway causing snoring.
Long Soft Palate or Uvula: Uvula is the dangling tissue at the back of the oral cavity. Long soft palate and long uvula can lead to narrowing of the opening from the nose to the throat. There may be further obstruction when the structure vibrate and bump against each other leading to snoring.
Does Snoring Affect Sleep Quality?
Snoring can compromise the quality of sleep of the affected individual and also of other’s who may be sleeping near him or her. This deterioration in quality of sleep is directly or indirectly caused by the following:
Interrupted Breathing and Sleep Quality: Snoring may be associated with long duration of interrupted breathing (sometimes more than 10 seconds) causing disturbed sleep pattern. This is caused due to complete or partial obstruction or blockage in the airway.
Frequent Waking Up: The affected individual may frequently wake up from sleep (consciously or subconsciously) which can affect the overall quality of sleep.
Light Sleeping: Snoring is often associated with serious medical condition such as obstructed sleep apnoea. It has been seen that about 50% of snorer have some form of sleep apnoea. This condition may cause the person to sleep throughout in light sleeping mode to maintain the muscle tone of the throat for maintaining adequate airflow. Continuous light sleeping (or lack of deep sleep) can affect the quality of sleep.
Strain on the Heart due to Snoring and Poor Sleep Quality: Obstructive sleep apnoea over a period of time can lead to elevation in blood pressure along with enlargement of the heart. This increases the risk of stroke or heart attack and indirectly affects the quality and quantity of sleep.
Poor Night’s Sleep due to Snoring: Poor night’s sleep can cause feeling sleepy through-out the day which may interfere with normal functioning of the person.
Low Oxygen Level in Blood: Reduced airflow will cause reduce intake of oxygen thus reduced oxygenation of blood by the lungs. This may cause lethargy with feeling of being tired even after sleeping.
Besides this, the quality of sleep may be affected by chronic headaches, obesity and daytime sleepiness or fatigue which may be caused due to snoring at night while sleeping. Snoring can cause disruption of the sleep cycle, which over a period of time can have serious effect over the health of the individual. The person may wake up from the sound of his or her own snoring. Even if the person is unaware of his or her own snoring, it can still cause fragmented sleep along with restlessness. In some cases, snoring may be an indication of other underlying health issues and thus should be treated seriously.
Poor quality of sleep caused by snoring can further lead other issues at mental, physical and emotional level. It increases the risk of developing mental issues such as cognitive impairment, memory loss, impairment of moral judgement, severe yawning, lack of concentration, ADHD like symptoms etc. Poor sleep can also slow down the wound healing process, lower white blood cell count, and also lower the immunity of the person. It can also lead to health issues such as diabetes, aches, tremors, decreased reaction time, fibromyalgia, seizures, weight gain, growth suppression, gall bladder issues, gout, asthma, cholesterol, osteoarthritis etc. Thus, it is important to take snoring as a serious medical issue and seek medical attention at the earliest to avoid associated complications.