Snoring can be loud and continuous throughout the whole time a person is asleep, or may occur only when sleeping in certain positions. The pitch and intensity may vary or be the same every night. Each case is individual.
You may not even be aware that you snore unless you are keeping someone else awake, but in some cases, snoring may be a warning sign of serious health problems.
A loud grunting sound emanating from the mouth or nose when asleep.
Sometimes snoring can be caused by a medical condition called obstructive sleep apnoea in which breathing stops during the time you are asleep, for periods as long as two minutes at a time.
In this potentially serious disease, which is associated with snoring and irregular breathing patterns, oxygen deprivation occurs due to the lack of respiration (i.e. there is not enough oxygen in the blood). This causes the sleeper to suddenly wake up, gasping for air, up to 200 times per night. The patient may not remember waking up, but will be very tired during the day. Diagnosis is commonly made after someone else becomes alarmed by observing the sleeping patient.
Sleep apnoea is associated with several other health problems, and is a risk factor for heart disease (patients with sleep apnoea are more likely to have high blood pressure and to suffer from stroke).
Snoring is involuntary. It happens when you breathe through your mouth whilst you are asleep, and the muscles of the soft palate relax. This causes a narrowing of the airways, and as the air is drawn into the lungs, the soft palate vibrates, causing the characteristic snoring sound.
Snoring can also be caused by enlarged tonsils.
Factors which cause the muscles that allow breathing to become too relaxed are varied, but include:
Excessive alcohol intake
Using an overly soft or large pillow
Sleeping on your back
Poor muscle tone
Asthma, respiratory infections, allergies, smoking and defects in the structure of the respiratory system may also lead to snoring by obstructing the airways.
If your healthcare professional suspects you have sleep apnoea, a thorough investigation will be conducted.
If snoring is caused by infection or mucous congestion of the nasal passages, it may be relieved by horseradish, garlic and vitamin C
Obesity is directly linked to snoring. A well-balanced, low-calorie and low-fat diet, in combination with regular exercise, will help maintain your ideal weight. (Always consult your healthcare professional before starting a new exercise programme).
If you are taking medication which you suspect may be contributing to your snoring, it is important to consult a healthcare professional. Don’t stop taking your medication without discussing it with your GP first.
Alleviating the underlying infections or allergy will often relieve snoring
Consult your health care professional about Buteyko breathing method – useful for a variety of breathing disorders.
A number of anti-snoring devices are available which reduce snoring by making it easier to breathe through your nose.
Try to sleep on your side, and always make sure your bedroom is well-ventilated and free from potential allergens such as pet hair and dust mites.
Improve your overall muscle tone by getting regular exercise.
Avoid excessive alcohol intake and make sure you eat several hours before bedtime.
If you are waking suddenly during the night, gasping for breath, or if someone else tells you they are concerned, consult your healthcare professional.