Snoring Sleep Disorder: Health Risks, Causes and Treatments
Almost 90 million American adults suffer from snoring disorders. Snoring can be caused by many reasons and can pose health risks if not treated.
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), almost 90 million American adults suffer from some type of snoring disorder. Of those adults, 37 million suffer from snoring conditions on a regular basis. Although snoring most often affects overweight men, it can affect both sexes regardless of weight. Understanding causes of snoring and seeking treatment can help minimize health risks associated with the condition.
Causes of Snoring
During sleep, throat muscle relax and your tongue moves to the back of the throat. When you breathe in and out, a vibration results. The loudness of the vibration varies, though Andrew J.M Prichard of the Royal Shewsbury Hospital reports snoring noise can be as loud as 110 dB, the equivalent to a jet plane approaching.
The following conditions can increase your chances of snoring:
• Mouth anatomy: If your palate is low, thick and soft, or if you have enlarged tonsils or adenoids, the airway can narrow and result in snoring. If your uvula is elongated (the piece of tissue handing down from the soft palate), it can also increase vibrations.
• Overweight: Being overweight can put extra weight on the throat and narrow airways.
• Alcohol consumption: Alcohol relaxes the throat muscles and may contribute to snoring disorders.
• Nasal problems: Congestion in the nose or deviated nasal septum restricts proper airflow and contributes to snoring
• Sleep apnea: A very serious medical condition, sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that cuts off oxygen to the brain. Characterized by loud snoring and then periods of silence when breathing slows or even stops, sleep apnea is considered a serious medical condition.
Health Risks and Complication of Snoring
Snoring is not just a nighttime frustration, it can have adverse health effects for both partners as well. According to the Mayo Clinic, habitual snoring may result in:
• Daytime sleepiness
• Relationship problems
• Lack of concentration and alertness
• Higher risk of high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke
• Increase in behavior problems, such as ADHD, for children who have sleep apnea
Habitual snorers and their partners are at risk for more motor vehicle accidents due to lack of sleep. Work efficiency and accuracy may also suffer and if the individual works around heavy equipment or any profession where concentration is essential, their lack of sleep may pose safety risks to themselves and others.
Treatments for Snoring
The first steps to treating snoring conditions are to make lifestyle changes. Losing weight, avoiding alcohol and modifying sleep positions are the easiest first steps to make. If those changes do not cure the snoring problem, other treatments may include:
• Oral appliances: These appliances are specially fitted to keep your airways open while you sleep. The appliance will need to be checked every six months at least, to ensure it fits properly and that the condition is not worsening. Side effects from these devices are excessive salivation, sore jaws, dry mouth and facial discomfort.
• Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): This treatment option involves use of a pressurized mask that you wear over your nose while you sleep. It forces air through your airways and keeps them open at night. This device is the preferred way to treat sleep apnea. Side effects from this treatment option are dry nasal passages and troubles adjusting to the noise of the pump.
• Surgery: There are a variety of surgery options (palatal implants, traditional tightening, laser surgery, radiofrequency tissue ablation), that you can discuss with your doctor.
Natural Treatments and Remedies for Snoring
There are many natural remedies you can try at home to stop snoring. Losing weight, avoiding alcohol and sedatives and sleeping on your side are some lifestyle changes to try. You can also try the following:
• Nasal strips: Adhesive strips fit to the outside of the nose and help to keep the nasal passage open.
• Nasal congestion: Treat nasal congestion to keep airways open. If using a nasal spray, do not use for more than 3 days in a row unless prescribed by a doctor. Chronic congestion may require surgery.
• Muscle Exercises: There are some mouth and jaw exercises you can practice to tighten up the jaw and throat muscles. Look online for some methods or speak with your doctor. The Mayo Clinic reports that playing a Digeridoo seems to have helped strengthened upper airway muscles, but further research is required on this theory. Singing is another activity that strengthens muscles.
• Essential Oils: More studies are required in this area, but a preliminary study in 2004, by Andrew J.N. Prichard, indicates that essential oils were able to reduce snoring occurrences when used in combination with one another.
Partners affected by snoring can use ear plugs to help minimize the decibel level emitted from their partner who is snoring. Getting a proper nights sleep is important and individuals may find they have to sleep elsewhere to get a good night's sleep until the snoring problem can be resolved.
Natural Products That May Help Stop Snoring: