Snoring is commonplace, even though most of us don’t think we snore. Of course, our partners in the bed next to us beg to differ! Snoring is estimated to affect 57 percent of men and 40 percent of women in the U.S. It even occurs in about a quarter of all children.
While snoring is widespread, its severity and possible health impacts vary widely. In this month’s eos Sleep blog, let’s get into some basics on snoring.
What causes snoring?
Snoring is simply the byproduct of tissues in the airway moving with passing airflow. During sleep, the muscles in the back of the throat loosen and relax, narrowing the airway. As we inhale and exhale, the air moving past these tissues causes them to flutter and vibrate. You can think of it as being similar to a flag waving in a breeze.
There are a number of reasons why some people snore more than others:
- Alcohol consumption
- Use of sedative medications
- Chronic nasal congestion
- Large tonsils, tongue, or soft palate
- Deviated septum or nasal polyps
- Jaw that is recessed or overly small
Is snoring dangerous?
Everyone snores sometimes. If you have some congestion from a cold, your airway is more constricted, and you’ll probably snore more often than when you’re healthy. If you have a few too many cocktails, that will relax your throat more than normal, making it more likely you’ll snore that night.
Whether your snoring is a cause for concern depends on its type, severity, and frequency. Dr. Volpi categorizes snoring patients into these groups:
- Light, infrequent snoring — This is normal, as described above, and it doesn’t require any treatment or attention. The only issues could come from the person who your intermittent light snoring is keeping awake.
- Primary snoring — This occurs more than three nights per week. While this creates even more disruption for a partner’s sleep, this still isn’t cause for concern unless it is accompanied by signs of sleep disruption or sleep apnea.
- Obstructive sleep apnea-associated snoring — This is a cause for concern. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) typically involves snoring, but it is different. In OSA, rather than vibrating tissues and snoring, your tissues sag backwards and fully block the airway. The brain senses the lack of oxygen and then awakens the person to restore airflow. This can happen dozens or even hundreds of times per night, although the person may not even know this occurs because they fall back asleep.
In next month’s blog, we’ll get into when you should come see Dr. Volpi about your snoring. If you need an appointment now, or if you have questions about your snoring, give us a call at eos Sleep, (212) 873-6036.