LIFE 9/9

July 04, 2023

Restonic Sleep Expert on why people snore and when to worry

The causes and symptoms of snoring
Picture: Freepik

Snoring is very common and seems normal to many people. It is a common cause of distress for many partners and couples. Although many people snore, according to Restonic Sleep Expert, it is not normal. It has been researched that Snoring indicates that there is some obstruction to normal breathing that only occurs during sleep. Dr. Thuli Nxumalo explores several factors that may be involved in snoring, what causes it, and how it can be rectified. 




Children can snore, for various reasons but snoring is commonly encountered in middle-aged individuals and may lead to a serious health problem called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). "Snoring indicates that there is some obstruction to normal breathing that only occurs during sleep," says, Dr Nxumalo, a Restonic sleep expert. "The obstruction causes turbulence in the airflow and vibration of the palate or the small tongue at the back of the mouth (the uvula). That vibration, plus a slightly open mouth, produces the noise we call snoring. The obstruction can be anywhere in the nose or throat area."




There are several reasons why people snore. For example, growing older increases one’s likelihood of snoring as the lining of the throat becomes "floppier". Dr. Nxumalo says that the number of people who snore increases after 40 years old in men and over 50 years old in women. "There are many predisposing factors such as obesity, sedentary lifestyle, heredity, alcohol, and certain drugs that lead to snoring. If a snorer is having un-refreshing sleep, feeling of choking, recurrent awakening from sleep, daytime fatigue, and personality change, or has crossed the line of demarcation between snoring and potentially life-threatening disease," she says. Other factors often involved in snoring are nasal, palate, and throat obstruction, the jaw and tongue, weight gain, and reflux of acid from the stomach. "Many people who snore have a problem with a blockage in their nose, which could be due to a general irritation causing a swollen lining of the nose, polyps, or enlarged adenoids," says Dr. Nxumalo. "Some of these conditions may need surgery, while others can be treated with appropriate nasal sprays, which may need to be used long-term." Another major cause of snoring is throat obstruction, which is often caused by tonsils. Tonsils are no longer routinely taken out in early childhood, so many more children grow up with their tonsils. If the tonsils become enlarged, they can swivel back during sleep and cause an obstruction.




In children, snoring is never normal, and removal of the tonsils and adenoids can often resolve the snoring in many cases as the end of the palate is generally the structure producing the snoring noise. Dr. Nxumalo says there is sometimes a tendency to want to surgically remove it. "This can often reduce the noise itself, but the surgery needs to be undertaken with caution," she says. "The palate is responsible for some very important functions, such as closing off the back of the nose during swallowing and creating our unique speech. Surgery may interfere with these normal and useful functions."




Research shows that

 your bed can also be making your snoring worse. If your mattress or pillow doesn’t offer the correct spinal support, it affects the angle of your head, neck, and airway, which can increase the likelihood of snoring. Dale Harley, Executive: Restonic Marketing, says there are several signs that you need to change your bed, such as visible sagging, creaking, and squeaking, and waking up with aches and pains. "If your snoring is noticeably less severe when sleeping on a different bed or with a different pillow, it’s worth investigating the option of a better bed to properly support your spine," he suggests.




Weight gain and obesity are often other causes of snoring, especially in men, who are prone to putting on weight around the neck and chest area. Extra weight in these areas directly narrows the airway making it harder to breathe in. Losing even a few kilograms can help to reduce snoring. Other factors include an often-ignored cause of snoring, which is the reflux of stomach contents. "These make their way up into the back of the throat causing swelling of the back of the tongue. During the day, gravity keeps the contents of the stomach in place, but lying down removes that force (particularly after a large meal close to bedtime or after eating spicy foods)," Dr. Nxumalo says. " Moving the evening meal to at least three hours before bedtime and possibly taking a small dose of antacid before going to sleep may reduce snoring caused by reflux."



In many instances, snoring may be just noise pollution, but in many cases, it may be a sign of something more sinister, such as obstructive sleep apnoea. This is when your upper airway partially or totally collapses, affecting your ability to breathe and get enough oxygen. "If your snoring is associated with daytime tiredness, catches or pauses in the breathing at night, or high blood pressure, you should speak to your doctor about possible apnoea. This is a serious medical disorder that can cause long-term medical problems and requires professional treatment," Dr. Nxumalo concludes."


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