Snoring is the repetitive harsh noise you hear
when a snorer inhales during sleep causing vibration of the soft or
floppy parts at the back of the throat. Snoring is associated with partial
collapse of the airway and obstruction to air flow. Over 40% of adults
snore and the noise can place great stress on relationships, affecting
the individual as well as the sleep of partners, family members and
friends during travel or trips away. Loud snoring can also disrupt sleep
patterns with significantly effect upon your quality of life.
As you fall asleep, the soft tissues at the back of the throat, the
muscles that line the airway, and the tongue muscles all relax. As this
occurs, particularly if sleeping on the back, the tongue drops back
into the airway which causes it to narrow. As air passes through this
narrower airway, it moves faster and causes the soft palate and uvula
to vibrate against the back of the throat or the base of the tongue
which creates a rattling or snoring sound.
As the air passage continues to narrow, pressure increases within the
airway and snoring becomes louder.
The three primary causes of narrowing of the air passage are:
bulkiness of throat tissue:
Children with enlarged adenoids and tonsils often snore, as do adults
with large tonsils. Overweight people and those with large necks often
snore as the excess neck tissue compresses the airway. Many patients
have anatomical variations in the structure of their throat tissues
such as large tonsils, unusually broad tongues or long soft palates.
A small lower jaw is also a risk factor increasing the chances of airway
obstruction occurring when asleep.
relaxation of the soft tissues:
If the throat tissues become too relaxed as a result of alcohol, or
taking tranquillizers, sleeping pills, sedatives, or muscle relaxants
they can collapse and fall backwards which may obstruct the airway.
resistance in the airway. A blocked or ‘stuffy’ nose requires
extra effort to pull the air through it causing a type of vacuum
in the throat that pulls the tissues of the throat together. Therefore,
enlarged turbinates, a deviated septum, hay-fever, colds/flu, sinusitis,
and allergies can all make snoring worse. In addition, these conditions
may cause the patient to ‘mouth-breathe’ that in turn
can make snoring worse.