Many people snore. While these loud or harsh sounds from the throat and nasal passages while sleeping can be annoying for others in the household, snoring is often the cause of an underlying problem that can be resolved, either through lifestyle changes or medical help.
Obesity is perhaps the most common contributor to snoring. People with this condition often have excess tissue that blocks the airways and constricts the throat when they recline. This makes breathing labored, creating loud sounds while sleeping. Weight loss is often recommended by doctors to reduce the excess tissue in the throat passages.
A deviated septum occurs when the cartilage divider inside the nose, the nasal septum, is off-center or crooked, causing difficulty breathing. While this does cause problems while the person is awake, it is also a common cause of snoring. Too little oxygen enters through the nasal passages, so the lungs must exert themselves to get adequate airflow. Minimally invasive surgery usually corrects this in individuals for whom the symptoms begin impairing quality of life.
Obstructive sleep apnea or OSA is a primary cause of snoring. In most people, sleeping restricts airflow to specific areas in the upper respiratory tract, due to a combination of normal muscle relaxation and gravity. People with sleep apnea have even less airflow, and the airways collapse for seconds at a time before reopening, causing snoring. This is a potentially dangerous illness, but sleep masks and other treatments can correct it. Weight loss can also help, as the condition is common in people with obesity.
Alcohol consumption causes the muscles to relax, including those in the airways. The depressive effects slacken the muscles in the jaw and throat, which then collapse into the airway. This is similar to what happens in people with sleep apnea but this has a much simpler solution: avoiding alcohol consumption before bed will quickly resolve this issue.
Hypothyroidism is an unexpected contributor to snoring, but studies show a definite correlation between the two. An underactive thyroid produces fewer hormones than it should, and an increase in these hormones can decrease the severity of snoring. Hypothyroidism in itself requires medical treatment, as the condition has a variety of potentially dangerous symptoms.
Other illness and ailments than a deviated septum can cause nasal obstruction. Allergies, colds, and sinus infections can all cause labored breathing that leads to snoring. Nasal congestion caused by illnesses such as a cold can also cause the throat to swell, further constricting airways. Medication can help lessen these symptoms. Diffusers and humidifiers can also improve breathing.
Children born with neuromuscular defects may have trouble breathing while sleeping, issues that can continue into adulthood. An elongated uvula can obstruct the airways and cause snoring. Neuromuscular diseases can also cause respiratory weakness and lessen airflow. Sometimes, increased nasal pressure, surgery, and medication can alleviate these issues.
Enlarged tonsils or adenoids can cause snoring in children and adults. They obstruct the airways when the person is laying down by blocking airflow. This is usually remedied by surgery when children are young to prevent more serious issues in adulthood, such as sleep apnea. Tonsilitis is usually the cause of enlarged tonsils, and this illness often requires the removal of the glands. Due to this common treatment, it is rare for enlarged tonsils to progress to the point of causing breathing impairment.
Smoking can cause edema and inflammation of the upper airway. It also weakens the lungs and causes buildup. All of these factors put smoking on the top of the list of causes of snoring, and ceasing smoking has a direct correlation to decreased snoring. The many other health benefits that come along with quitting smoking make this a worthwhile endeavor.
When combined, asthma and a small pharynx can cause negative esophageal pressure and increase snoring. Individuals with both issues also may have extra vagal stimulation that causes both snoring and asthma attacks at night. Nasal CPAP machines for sleep apnea patients have a positive effect on people with these conditions.
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