Snoring is a widespread condition affecting people during sleep. A study from the University of Pennsylvania in 2020 estimates that around 57% of men, 40% of women, and 27% of children in the United States snore in their sleep.
While the raspy noise produced during sleep may be a normal scenario for most people and a common bedtime nuisance for their partners, experts warn that it may be an early sign of underlying health risks.
It is important to note that snoring varies from night to night. Subsequently, the sound ranges from hardly audible to awfully irritating. Snoring can be extremely distressing to others, typically to roommates or bed partners, rather than the snorer. As a matter of fact, it is pretty uncommon for snorers to wake up from their own noise.
But why do people snore so loud in the first place?
Why do you snore?
First off, you need to know the science behind snoring.
The noise is produced when a person inhales. The air flows through the nose and/or mouth, along the airway, and then vibrates through the tongue, soft palate, walls of the throat, uvula, and tonsils.
Snoring occurs when the muscles around the airways are relaxed. The soft tissue at the back of the throat collapses and severely restricts the air to pass freely. This is why you do not normally hear a snorer snore while awake, as the muscles are tense.
As the air passage narrows, the more tissue vibrates. Basically, loud snoring is caused by a turbulent airflow and a constricted airway through the lax passages.
Main factors that cause loud snoring
As said earlier, snoring is quite common. It is generally more common among overweight and obese individuals, but it can also be hereditary, and tends to get worse with age.
Here are other factors that contribute to loud snoring:
- Congested nasal passage (allergies or colds)
- Drinking alcohol
- Taking certain medications that causes drowsiness and muscles to relax further
- Smoking, exposed to second-hand smoke
- Overbite or undersized jaw
- Enlarged tonsils (especially among children)
- Low throat muscle tone (being unfit or due to old age)
- Deviated septum (causing airflow restriction through the nose)
- Sleep deprivation (lack of sleep causes the mouth muscles to relax further)
- Sleep position (sleeping on your back can cause gravity to pull your tongue further and collapse the throat muscles)
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA, a serious sleep disorder that causes oral tissues to partially or completely block the air passage during sleep)
When is loud snoring dangerous?
The constant struggle of your body to breathe while you sleep can cause serious health risks, especially in the long run. Stroke, sudden heart attack, and feeling fatigued are just some of the most common health risks associated with chronic snoring.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is one of the most common reasons why people snore. This is a serious sleep disorder that causes someone to temporarily stop breathing while asleep. It deprives their brain and body of much needed oxygen. The snorer may jolt awake just enough to start breathing again. This short cycle of sleep and waking suddenly from jolting can happen multiple times throughout the night, affecting their quality of sleep.
The restricted airflow also causes decreased levels of oxygen. In the short term, this can cause a person to feel groggy and sleepy in the morning even after a long night’s sleep. In the long term, this can affect a person’s cognitive abilities which lead to clumsiness, memory problems, and even chronic conditions like hypertension.
OSA is often associated with greater risk of heart attack due to abnormal heart beat, stroke, obesity, depression, type 2 diabetes, liver problems, and metabolic syndrome such as high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol levels, among others.
When is treatment necessary?
In many cases, a simple lifestyle change and improving certain daytime habits can reduce the frequency and the snoring condition. People with mild snoring can wake up feeling refreshed. Thus, simply changing your sleeping habit by sleeping early, and avoiding alcohol, smoking, and heavy snacks before bedtime can improve the condition.
For severe snorers, medical intervention is absolutely necessary. Consult your physician or sleep doctor if:
- You often feel fatigued and restless in the morning and throughout the day
- You experience frequent waking and gasping for air throughout the night
- You have other health concerns such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular problems, anxiety, and/or depression
- And most importantly – if you cause your partner to lose sleep
Fortunately, there are many treatments for loud snoring. Talk to your doctor and get that good night’s sleep you and your partner deserves.