Snoring is a widespread condition that can affect your sleep quality. Sometimes, it can be a sign of a serious underlying problem. But for most, it’s a light problem that can make it difficult for others to sleep. Snoring happens when the upper tissue of your airway vibrates.
What causes snoring?
When you sleep, your tongue and soft tissues relax. It can block the airway and lead to snoring. This can be because of the size of their neck muscles. Certain habits and conditions can increase the likelihood of snoring. They include:
Sleeping on your back
Research shows that men are more likely to snore than women and children. It also happens more for middle-aged people.
Snoring can also be a symptom of sleep apnea. It is a breathing disorder where the airway gets blocked or collapses during sleep and causes breathing interruption. Snoring from sleep apnea sounds like you’re choking, snorting, or gasping.
There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a structural blockage, while central sleep apnea is because of a problem with the central nervous system that controls breathing. Obstructive apnea is the only one associated with snoring.
Obstructive apnea can also cause daytime drowsiness, insomnia, headaches, trouble concentrating, low sex drive, and mood swings. Studies show that sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure.
How can you tell if your snoring is a serious problem?
Light snoring is not serious. At most, it inconveniences your housemates and isn’t a serious condition.
You may have primary snoring if you snore more than three nights a week. It affects sleep quality more. Unless there are signs of apnea, a diagnosis isn’t required.
When you show signs of apnea, you should see a doctor. If you grind your teeth, start snoring because of recent weight gain, get headaches, are sleepy during the day, and experience frequent urinating at night, try to get a diagnosis.
Using nasal decongestants such as nasal strips, antihistamines, humidifiers, or nasal sprays can reduce snoring.
Sleeping on your side, raising your neck with a pillow, or sewing a tennis ball into the back of your nightwear can help relax the airways and reduce snoring. If you sleep with a partner, they can also help you reposition while you’re asleep.
Being overweight can lead to fatty tissue obstructing the airway. Managing your weight can help reduce snoring.
Orthodontists can also make a tailor-made mouth guard to move the tongue and jaw forward. This keeps the airway open.
You can also use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. The CPAP machine pumps pressurised air preventing any blockage in the throat and chest. They need prescriptions and have to be configured for your breathing patterns.
In extreme cases, surgery can correct a deviated septum or other blockages.
UK National Health Service surgeon Dr Karan Rajan explains how these mouth, jaw, and neck exercises can help reduce snoring.
The first exercise you can try is sticking out your tongue and holding the position for five seconds. Repeat 3-4 times.
For a bit more resistance, push your tongue against a spoon.
The second exercise you can do is move your tongue from left to right. You can also add resistance by pressing your fingers against your cheeks when you push your tongue. This helps contract your neck muscles. Do this 3-4 times for each side.
Push against your front teeth and swallow. This stretches your throat muscles. You can look up to get even more stretches.
Finally, you can push your tongue down. Hold for five seconds.
Gloria Mari is a culture writer based in Nairobi, Kenya. She writes on art, film, literature, health, and the environment. She has previously written for Kenya Buzz, People Daily, The Elephant, and Kalahari Review.