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Is snoring a serious health problem?

Snoring is entirely normal for people of all ages. In fact, it is estimated that around 45% of adults snore occasionally, and 25% snore regularly. But while snoring is common, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy to live with. Many people who have snoring problems experience negative side effects from their snoring in their daily lives – the most common side effect being compromised quality of sleep for them and their partner. 

Snoring occurs when your throat muscles are relaxed, which inhibits sufficient airflow. It is important to remember that snoring is a symptom, not a disease, and the reasons for your snoring problem can come from any number of root causes.  

Many of the common causes of snoring are nothing to be concerned about and are only a temporary issue. However, a persistent snoring problem can take a toll on your day-to-day life. Should this be the case, several different treatment methods can be used to help alleviate symptoms and regain a better quality of life. To learn more about what causes snoring, and how to improve your snoring, read on.

What causes snoring?

Snoring can be a symptom of many different illnesses or conditions. Some common causes for snoring are temporary, such as alcohol consumption, medications, and common colds. These causes will usually clear themselves up within a matter of days, as they only induce snoring by temporarily relaxing or swelling your throat muscles. 

However, snoring may also be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, which is a more persistent problem caused by a range of factors including your mouth anatomy, weight, and more.

What all these root causes share in common is the relaxing or swelling of the throat muscles, resulting in a tighter airway that makes it difficult to get sufficient airflow. As you sleep, the muscles at the back of your mouth will further relax. The noise you hear from snoring comes from the air passing through this narrower-than-normal gap as you sleep and vibrating the tissues at the back of your throat.

There are several reasons why you may be suffering from a snoring problem:

  • You may be genetically predisposed to snoring if you have a mouth anatomy with a thick, soft palate and uvula. This may also be worsened by being overweight, which adds extra fat and tissue to the area.
  • While snoring can cause sleep deprivation, sleep deprivation can also be a causal factor for the throat muscles further relaxing and a more serious snoring problem.
  • Sleeping on your back is also one of the common causes of snoring, as gravity helps tighten the gap.
  • Drinking too much alcohol before you sleep encourages the throat muscles to relax.
  • Nasal problems caused by allergies or colds can also contribute.

How can snoring impact your day-to-day life?

Snoring can have hugely detrimental impacts on your daily lifestyle. In Hong Kong alone, about 200,000 people suffer from chronic snoring caused by obstructive sleep apnea.

If your airflow is restricted and you snore consistently, you may not be getting enough oxygen into your blood. This can cause a wide range of other side-effects including daytime sleepiness and fatigue, increased irritability, difficulty concentrating, a higher risk of blood pressure, heart complications, strokes, and more. Many of these will have knock-on effects and contribute to poor relationships, low productivity at work, and even accidents while driving or operating heavy machinery. Not to mention, snoring can also worsen your partner’s sleep.

Treatment options for snoring

There are a wide range of ways to treat a snoring problem. Some options are merely lifestyle related such as losing weight and drinking less alcohol. Others include corrective CPAP devices or oral appliances that help enlarge the airway in your throat to allow for proper air passage. Lastly, surgery is also an option in more severe cases of sleep apnea.

The information above contains general information about medical conditions and potential treatments. It is not medical advice. If you have any medical questions, please consult your doctor.