Snoring is making a sawing, rustling or humming sound while sleeping. This sound comes from the throat. Snoring is not dangerous, but can be very annoying for someone’s partner. Snoring can therefore be a major social problem, including separate sleeping and domestic tension as a result.
Snoring occurs when the breath cannot flow freely in and out, due to a narrowing of the airway between the nostrils and the vocal cords. There can be several reasons for this.
Sometimes, the nasal cavity itself is blocked or too narrow, for example in case of a cold, allergy, nasal polyp or deviating position of the nasal septum. But the narrowing is usually around the transition from the nasal cavity into the pharynx. This is, for instance, the case with enlarged tonsils, during prolonged irritation of the pharynx and with a congenital long and weak palate or uvula.
The primary cause of a blockage of the airway is the tongue, which relaxes during sleep. This makes it slide backwards and thus close off the airway. The muscles of the pharynx and oral cavity also weaken under the influence of alcohol, fatigue, aging and medications, such as sleeping agents and tranquilizers.
The risk of snoring is increased by sleeping on the back. In people with a short and wide neck, the risk that they snore is higher. Overweight increases the risk of snoring, since there will be more tissue in the pharynx.
The snoring sound is louder later in life, because due to aging, the mucosa of the pharynx becomes thicker by accumulation of fat tissue. As a result, the diameter of the airway gets smaller. Moreover, the mucosa is weaker later in life, allowing it to vibrate more easily. When children snore, this is usually because of enlarged adenoids or tonsils.
Characteristic of snoring is the sawing, rustling or humming throat sound. The person himself has probably little trouble, but for the partner or housemates it can be very annoying and disruptive for sleep. Snoring can lead to fatigue, headache, unrested wake up and irritated throat mucosa, but the condition doesn’t need to be really harmful to health.
The diagnosis of snoring is made on the basis of the medical history of the patient, his story and that of the partner. Here, things like throat problems, smoking and alcohol and drug use are discussed. The nose and throat are also extensively examined where nasal blockages and enlarged tonsils are taken into account. Sometimes, additional examinations are needed, such as allergy tests or X-rays.
With sleep endoscopy is examined how bad the narrowing is. The snorer is put to sleep via an infusion with a sedative. During sleep is looked with a thin, flexible tube with a camera through the nose into the throat, to see where snoring exactly occurs.
In order to stop snoring, there are various treatments. In the first instance there will be attempted to remedy snoring with a change in lifestyle. If this doesn’t help, it may be decided to deploy an anti-snoring treatment. Examples are:
- Mechanical means to keep the mouth closed or keep the nose open, such as anti-snoring mouthpieces.
- Electrical means that respond to the sound of snoring and then awaken the patient.
If the doctor can determine what causes the snoring, it’s possible to deal with this cause. For example, an allergy can be combated with medication and a polyp may be removed by surgery.
As one gets older, snoring is in many people a gradually growing problem. Treatment, including surgery, can cure snoring in one patient, while in the other it results in little improvement. After successful treatment, snoring may eventually reoccur again, often as a result of an increasing body weight. Snoring may lead to sleep apnea (stop breathing) during sleep.
- Don’t sleep on your back. If necessary, sew a golf ball in the pajamas at the height of the shoulder blade to prevent turning on the back during sleep.
- Try to lose weight in case of overweight.
- Don’t drink alcohol in the hours before sleep, to prevent weakening of the muscles in the tongue and throat.
- When using sedatives or tranquillizers, consult the general practitioner about changing or stopping these drugs.
- Quit smoking.
- Don’t eat heavy meals before bedtime.
- Be well rested.
- Avoid dry air in the bedroom.
- Provide sufficient exercise.
- The term ‘ronchopathy’ is derived from the Greek word rhonchos (snoring sound). The suffix -pathy indicates that it is a disease.
- The prevalence of snoring in adults is 20% in men and 10% in women.
- Snoring occurs at all ages, but the older a person is, the greater the chance that he or she snores.
- Snoring usually starts in people aged 30 to 40 years.