What makes us snore?
The ‘snoring’ noise itself is made when airflow through the mouth and nose is obstructed and soft tissue vibrates. This can be attributed to many things including over indulgence, smoking, sleep position and allergy. Typically, snoring affects men more than women and is most common in those that are overweight. Not only does it disrupt the sleep of anybody in the close vicinity, it can also reduce the sleep quality of the snorer themselves, and in some instances become a health risk.
Obstructive sleep apnoea
When breathing during sleep is briefly and regularly interrupted, this could indicate a condition known as obstructive sleep apnoea. Sufferers are often sleep deprived, and are typically very loud snorers showing signs of very heavy, laboured breathing, gasping and snorting during bedtime. This disrupts their deep sleep, and leads to regularly interrupted nights during which they may or may not be conscious of regular awakenings.
Obstructive sleep apnoea occurs when the soft tissue in the back of the throat relaxes enough to block the airway…thus producing loud noises and low blood oxygen levels that in turn cause the brain to wake from sleep.
Left untreated, sleep apnoea can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and poor mental health amongst other things. The good news is that once recognised, it is a very treatable condition. Lifestyle changes can help decrease symptoms, such as weight loss and altering sleep position, and there are several procedures and devices that can also be used depending on individual circumstances.
There are numerous sleep centres and clinics dedicated to helping those with obstructive sleep apnoea, and consultants specialising in treating the condition (usually within the Ear Nose and Throat arena). If you are concerned speak to your GP in the first instance who will recommend the correct pathway to diagnosis and management.
An annoying habit or a health risk?
45% of adults snore occasionally, and 25% are habitual snorers…but when does snoring become less of an annoying habit and more of a health risk?