Different Snores for Different Folks: What Do They Mean?

Snoring 101A

Snoring is experienced nightly by tens of millions of Americans, but not all of snoring episodes indicate trouble for the people involved. Snoring comes in three varieties, so to speak: occasional, habitual and serious or obstructive. The second two types warrant the sufferer’s concern and evaluation by a professional.

Let’s look at the causes of snoring:

  • Nasal Airways: When one’s nasal airways are obstructed, through physically blocking the nighttime breathing process, snoring normally results. Nasal obstructions can be temporary, caused by allergies or sinus infections, or they can be more serious or permanent. A deviated septum, or a flaw in the wall that separates on nostril from the other, will cause breathing problems and snoring episodes, as will nasal polyps.
  • Poor muscle tone in the throat and tongue: When throat and tongue muscles relax too much, they can collapse and block the airway, leading to snoring. Muscle relaxation that results in snoring can result from deep sleep itself, or from alcohol consumption or the use of sleeping pills. The aging process itself also relaxes these muscles.
  • Bulky throat tissue: Being overweight in general can also reveal itself in the throat, resulting in bulky tissue that can block air intake. Tonsils and adenoids that become enlarged can do the same.
  • Soft palate and/or uvula: If the soft palate and/or uvula (the dangling, pointed structure) are too soft, or flabby, they can narrow the passageway of air from the nose to the throat, causing snoring. When air is taken in, the soft palate and uvula can even vibrate against one another, resuling in snoring.

Occasional snoring caused by sinus or allergy problems normally go away when the problem goes away, either through medication or change of scenery or season. Both habitual and serious snoring can, however, be an indication of sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is characterized not just by snoring, but also by long interruptions in one’s breathing during the night lasting 10 seconds or more. It also results in light sleeping and waking frequently from sleep. The result is a poor night’s sleep that reveals itself the next day as fatigue and lack of focus. Because of the interruptions in breathing, sleep apnea can also place a strain on the heart, in turn potentially
causing hypertension, arrhythmia and other heart problems.

While occasion snoring can be a nuisance to sleeping partners, habitual and serious snorers who develop sleep apnea cam face threats to their own health.

If you suspect that your may be a snorer who verges on having sleep apnea (or if you’re convinced you do have the problem), you should immediately consult with a sleep professional, such as those found at the Snoring Center, and find a fix for the cause of your problem, which can originate in the nose or mouth, or both.

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