Snore at night and feel weary in the morning? Or is your partner a nightly snorer? Even though snoring is mostly harmless, it is important to clarify the causes. How to proceed and tips for sufferers.
Snoring is an annoying evil. Depending on the intensity of the snoring, it can have a detrimental effect on the body’s essential recovery process – and sometimes it can be caused by a serious illness. Are you lethargic in the morning and sleepy and limited in what you can do during the day? Do you experience interruptions in your breathing during sleep? If so, have your snoring assessed in order to rule out sleep apnoea and prevent damage to your health. In the case of children, snoring should always be investigated.
Causes of snoring
Our muscles relax when we sleep. This is also true for our upper airways. Everything becomes soft and lax, including our palate, uvula and tongue. This means that our airways become narrower. If the air we breathe in flows past such a bottleneck, the surrounding tissue vibrates, causing the typical noises we associate with snoring.
Snoring can have many reasons. Some of these can usually be avoided by leading a healthy lifestyle. The most frequent causes are as follows:
- Breathing through an open mouth rather than your nose; triggers for obstructed nasal respiration can include allergies, nasal polyps and congenital nasal constrictions.
- Anatomical causes: enlarged tonsils, large uvula, large tongue or jaw misalignments narrow the air flow. Enlarged tonsils are the most common cause of snoring among children.
- Excess weight – restricts the airways
- Sleeping on your back causing your tongue to fall backwards
- Medication, nicotine and alcohol
10 tips for snorers – how to stop the risk
There is no universal anti-snoring remedy. For the establishment of targeted treatment and therapy, an individual evaluation is required. Nevertheless, the risk of snoring can be reduced with a couple of simple measures:
- Are your airways clear? Make sure to sleep in a position that leaves them free. Ideally, you should sleep on your side. If you sleep on your back, your tongue can fall backwards and impair your respiratory flow.
- Do you lie comfortably in bed? Seek advice from a specialist store in purchasing a supportive mattress with a slatted frame and a suitable pillow.
- Your nose is closed? Those who breathe through their mouth are more likely to snore. If you are suffering from a cold, nose drops or a spray can help in the short term. Make sure to get a chronically blocked nose checked out.
- Do you drink alcohol regularly? This relaxes the tissues in your throat. They vibrate more easily and are clearly audible. In particular, you should give alcohol a miss in the evenings.
- Do you smoke? This often leads to snoring.
- What do you eat in an evening? Try and eat things that are easily digestible. You will enjoy a more peaceful and relaxing sleep.
- Do you keep in shape? A well trained body and exercise outdoors improve our sleep. However, make sure not to train directly before going to bed.
- Do you take medication? Bear in mind that sleep remedies and other relaxing medicinal products can bring on snoring.
- Are you overweight? Excess fat tissue can worsen the bottlenecks in our airways. Read our tips on finding your ideal weight.
- Problems with your jaw alignment? A lower jaw that drops back during you sleep, an overbite or too narrowly positioned teeth can cause snoring.
Harmless snoring or illness-related?
Most cases involve normal snoring, which is also referred to as primary snoring. From a medical perspective, this form is usually nothing to worry about. Nevertheless, it generates an annoying noise of up to 80 decibels – as loud as a lorry on the motorway. This disturbs our sleep, and especially that of our partner. Be wary if you suffer nightly interruptions in your breathing: this could be obstructive sleep apnoea. The lack of oxygen due to the interruptions in your breathing increases the risk of cardiovascular illnesses, including heart attacks and strokes. Such sleeping disorders need to be looked at by medical sleep professionals. A consultation is also advisable for people who do not suspect that they suffer from sleep apnoea or interruptions in their breathing if they suffer from heavy snoring. Talk to your doctor. He or she can initiate the required examinations and, where necessary, refer patients for an outpatient consultation at a centre for sleep medicine or a sleep laboratory.
Preventing snoring: which aids can help?
Online, you can find various therapies and anti-snoring aids ranging from anti-snoring pillows, anti-snoring mouthpieces, nose sprays and tongue pacemakers to turtle-like sleeping vests designed to prevent the wearer from sleeping on their back. The wealth of such aids alone shows that there is no quick universal solution for stopping snoring. Only after a precise diagnosis can treatment achieve this objective, be this in the form of snoring therapy or a surgical procedure for your nose or palate. Braces and mouthpieces should also be handled by professionals. You may otherwise find yourself spending unnecessary money on aids that have no effect on you. Tips for a relaxing night’s sleep can be found in our “Sleep ” section.
Snoring less common among women
Snoring is widespread: one in every five men snores. Women are affected less frequently, except during pregnancy. The problem intensifies in old age: from age 60, some 60 per cent of men are affected and 40 per cent of women.
Somnologist, Daniela Janssen
Daniela Janssen (lic. Phil. somnologist and psychotherapist FSP) is a member of the Specialist Somnology Team at the Zentrum für Schlafmedizin Hirslanden Zürich (centre of somnology). She advises adults, young people and children with sleeping disorders. As a psychotherapist, she also works in her own practice. Daniela Janssen was available to the editorial team in an advisory and editorial capacity for this article.