Although snoring is very common, most people don’t know how it happens, why it happens, or what effect it has. If you or a loved one snores frequently, it’s important to truly understand the facts, so you can seek treatment for the issue or offer your support to others. Here are 10 of the most important facts about snoring:
It’s common to snore, but it’s not healthy
Almost everyone snores occasionally, and a large portion of the population snores three or more times per week. About 40 to 50 percent of men and 20 to 30 percent of women snore regularly. However, this doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
Irregular breathing during sleep occurs when the back of the mouth collapses, which narrows the airway, disrupts the air flow, and causes the soft palate and uvula to vibrate against the back of the throat. Although this is common, it’s not normal.
If you snore, it likely affects the quality of your sleep. People often wake up frequently because of disruptions in the air flow, even if they don’t remember in the morning. You may also have trouble getting enough deep sleep. Lack of sleep causes excessive drowsiness, headaches, memory issues, difficulty focusing, irritability, and a variety of other symptoms.
People who snore may also be at an increased risk of developing heart disease. The irregular breathing may cause the arterial walls to thicken, which increases the chances of a stroke.
It can have many causes
There are many biological factors and lifestyle habits that cause snoring. If your soft palate is naturally lower and thicker than normal, the airway might be narrowed, which can cause vibrations. Nasal problems, like a deviated septum or chronic congestion, are another common cause. Some people simply have a narrower airway than normal and are at a greater risk of experiencing irregular breathing problems.
Sleep deprivation is one of the most common causes of irregular breathing. Your throat normally relaxes when you sleep, but if it relaxes excessively, it can cause vibrations. When you finally sleep after being sleep deprived, it’s likely that your throat will become too relaxed. Alcohol consumption can cause or worsen the problem as well because it relaxes the throat muscles excessively.
Men are more likely to snore more than women for biological reasons. Men’s voice boxes sit lower in the throat than women’s and are more likely to partially block the airway and cause vibrations. Women’s voice boxes are more likely to completely obstruct the airway, causing them to wake up.
Being overweight or obese also increases the risk of irregular breathing because the excess weight on the throat could obstruct the airway. It also increases the likelihood of obstructive sleep apnea, which often causes people to snore.
You may have inherited the problem from your parents
One study used data from over 3,000 men between 54 and 74 years old. All of the subjects reported that they snored regularly and had their own bedroom because of the problem. Based on the questionnaire, researchers found that a family history was very common.
About 70 percent of people who snore regularly report having at least one family member who snores as well. Many of the biological or anatomical causes of irregular breathing could be inherited.
In another study, researchers evaluated the frequency at which 700 one-year-olds snored. About 15 percent of the children snored three or more times per week, and children with at least one parent who snored with three times as likely to snore as other children.
As you age, you become more likely to snore
Although people of all ages snore, older people are more likely to snore than younger people. According to Rafael Pelayo, a sleep specialist, this mostly happens because of weight gain. Many people put on weight as they age, especially around the neck. Loss of muscle tone is also common with aging.
It can be harmful for children as well
The problem is more common in adults than children, but when kids snore, it can have very harmful effects. Surveys and data show that about 10 to 12 percent of kids snore at least three times a week. However, the percentage might be much higher if parents don’t notice the problem.
Kids may snore for many of the same reasons as adults. However, there may be other causes that only affect kids. Many children have enlarged tonsils or adenoids, which can obstruct the airway.
Like excessive drowsiness affects adults at work, it can also affect children in school. It causes concentration and memory problems, and kids might have a hard time focusing in class and completing their work.
Sleep disorders often go unnoticed in children. Many kids who snore or have other sleep disorders are misdiagnosed with ADHD or other behavioral or learning disabilities. This prevents them from getting the proper treatment, and the problem can continue for years.
Sleep apnea is very common in people who snore.
About 30 percent of men and 20 percent of women who snore have sleep apnea, and most people with sleep apnea snore. Sleep apnea causes the breathing to stop temporarily during sleep, sometimes hundreds of times per night.
If you have sleep apnea, you likely wake up frequently throughout the night when you stop breathing. You may not notice or remember most of these episodes. However, some people with sleep apnea sometimes remember waking up suddenly and feeling short of breath.
Sleep apnea prevents you from getting adequate or restful sleep. It causes a variety of side effects and can seriously diminish your quality of life. It can also put you at risk for major illnesses, like heart disease, high blood pressure, and liver problems.
Anyone who snores regularly should visit a doctor to discuss the possibility of sleep apnea. When the condition goes untreated, it affects your health, happiness, and relationships.
A snore is usually between 30 and 100 decibels.
The average volume of a snore is 38 decibels, which is about the volume of a quiet conversation. However, snores can be much louder than that. The loudest snore ever recorded was 120 decibels, which is the same volume as an emergency vehicle’s siren.
Regular exposure to sounds above 75 or 80 decibels can cause hearing damage. If you snore loudly every night, it could be affecting you and your partner’s hearing abilities.
If you snore, it may affect your partner.
Many of the harmful effects of snoring occur because of lack of quality sleep. If the partner of a snorer is frequently woken up by the noise, they’ll also experience these effects. When both people in a relationship feel exhausted and irritable, it can cause serious relationship issues.
About 95 percent of snorers report that it bothers their partners. Many bed partners of snorers report getting less than five hours of sleep per night and visiting their doctor more than partners of non-snorers. Some couples even have to sleep in different rooms because the noise is so loud.
You may be able to reduce how much you snore with lifestyle changes.
If you usually lie on your back, try sleeping on your side instead. This can reduce the amount of pressure on your throat and help keep the airway open. Propping up your head with an extra pillow or raising the head of your bed could help, too.
If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight could reduce how much you snore. Avoid drinking alcohol less than two hours before you go to sleep, and make sure you follow a regular sleeping schedule and get enough sleep.
If you snore for allergy-related reasons, change your pillowcases regularly and dust off your ceiling fan. Allergens in your bedroom may be worsening the problem.
In severe cases, doctors can provide treatments.
If you have sleep apnea, your doctor can give you a CPAP machine to regulate the pressure in your airway and keep the space open. A CPAP is a mask that fits over the nose or mouth and blows air into the airway.
You may benefit from oral appliances, which are mouthpieces that keep your mouth and jaw in a position that prevents obstruction of the airway.
In very severe cases that aren’t helped by other treatments, doctors may recommend surgery to remove excess tissue from the throat. Some people have their uvula removed, which can prevent the airway from being blocked.