Image of black couple in bed with female partner blocking ears with pillow from male partner snoring

 

By: Isaac Nunoofio (Freelance Health Writer and DLHA Volunteer).

With Editorial contribution by The DLHA Team

 

 

Introduction

Halimat’s Story

It's 3.00 am. Halimat (not her real name) has been staring for three hours at the ceiling of the one-bedroom flat in Kano city, Kano State, Nigeria, that she shares with her 38-year-old husband, a police corporal in the Kano State Police Command.

Her mind is racing, and her body is tense and filled with anger. This is the umpteenth time she’s been unable to fall asleep readily and have a refreshing, restful, deep sleep because of her husband’s habitual snoring. This is what she has endured for the five years that they’ve been married. Her obese husband normally starts snoring soon after he goes to bed and falls asleep. His snoring is loud, throaty, and present throughout the night and that makes it hard for her to sleep.

She’s had several arguments and fights with her husband because of his snoring. That has created disaffection between them and, as a result, her marriage is collapsing.

In five hours she’ll have to report at the bank where she works. She recalls the many times she’s had to drag herself to work feeling sleepy, and how that’s affected her performance at work. Her supervisor has been complaining lately about the quality of work she does in the office and she’s scared she may lose her job. That will make it hard for her to provide for her three-year-old son.

As she stalks out of the bedroom into the living room to see whether she can catch a little sleep on the couch, she makes a mental note that she has to see her doctor to discuss her husband’s problem with him.

 

Halimat’s husband is not the only person who snores. Check out these key facts about snoring.

 

Key facts:

  • Snoring is a common problem among many adults in Africa.
  • In one study in Nigeria, about 31.6% of the respondents had snoring problems.
  • The prevalence of snoring was higher in men (34%) while about 26% of the women were snorers.
  • Overweight people are more likely to snore than people of normal weight.
  • Snoring gets worse as people grow older.

 

You may be experiencing what Halimat is going through. Or you may be a snorer and you have the following questions on your mind: 

  • What is snoring?
  • What causes it?
  • What are the risks and complications of snoring?
  • How can I prevent or treat it?

In this article, we’ll answer all these questions.

 

 

What Is Snoring?

Snoring is the noisy breathing that occurs when a person is sleeping. Babies, children, men, women, and almost anyone can snore once in a while. Snoring occasionally is not a problem. It may only bother your roommates or spouse.

However, if you are a chronic snorer, it can interrupt your sleep and, therefore, affect your ability to get quality sleep, which is important for one to remain healthy and strong. Additionally, it may indicate a serious disease such as obstructive sleep apnea, or other diseases such as hypertension or heart disease.

 

 

Causes

When you doze off and enter the deep sleep stage, the muscles in your tongue, throat and soft palate (roof of your mouth) relax.  The tissues in your throat can relax so much that they may partially block your airways.

Consequently, the air you inhale is forced to pass through a blocked area. When that happens, the soft tissues in your nose, mouth, and throat hit against one another and vibrate. The vibrations then produce a snorting sound.

A number of factors cause snoring. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Allergies
  • Alcohol consumption
  • The anatomy of your mouth and sinuses (How your mouth and sinuses were made)
  • A cold infection
  • Your weight
  • Your age
  • Your gender

 

Snoring may occur when the conditions below affect the airways:

Problems in your nose:

  • A deviated nasal septum (the wall that separates the left side of your nose from the right side shifts out of position).
  • Nasal polyps.
  • Excess mucus in the nose because of allergies, a cold, a sinus infection, inflammation, or pollutants in the air.

 

Excess fat: Overweight children, men, and women may have fatty tissue at the back of their throats.

 

Alcohol and drug abuse: Alcohol can make the throat muscle relax. Moreover, it can decrease your body’s ability to keep the airways open.

 

The anatomy of your mouth:

  • Your uvula (the piece of tissue that hangs at the back of your mouth) may become elongated and narrow the opening from your nose to your mouth.
  • You may have a low, thick, soft palate.

 

The collapse of throat and tongue muscles: The muscles of your throat and tongue may become too relaxed and they may collapse into the airway.

 

Your sleep position: Sleeping on your back can make gravity act on your throat and narrow the airway.

 

Enlarged organs:  Enlarged tonsils and adenoids can make some children snore.

 

Smoking: Smoking regularly can make the smoke irritate the tissues of your throat and cause inflammation.

 

 

Signs And Symptoms Of Snoring

You may hear:

  • A quiet vibrating sound
  • A whistling sound
  • A loud grumbling sound
  • A snorting sound
  • A rumbling sound

 

 

Risk Factors For Snoring

Some of the risk factors that may increase the likelihood that a person will snore include:

  • Gender: Men are more likely to snore than women
  • Body weight: Men and women who are overweight or obese are more likely to snore.
  • The diameter of your airway: Having a long soft palate, large tonsils, or large adenoids can narrow your airway and make you snore.
  • Consuming alcohol or its related products: Alcohol itself, beverages that contain alcohol, as well as certain drugs that contain alcohol such as sedatives (drugs that make one sleep), can make the throat muscles relax and impede airflow in the mouth, nose, and throat.
  • Nasal congestion: If your nose is often congested because of allergies or a common cold, you have a high risk of snoring.
  • Deviated septum: The wall that separates the left and right sides of your nose can shift from the center and increase your risk of snoring.
  • Family history: If you have grandparents or parents who snore, you are also likely to snore.
  • Pregnancy: The hormonal changes and weight gain that occur during pregnancy can make a woman snore.

 

 

Complications

Snoring does not have complications. However, if you are a chronic snorer and you also have OSA, you may suffer the following complications.

  • You may wake up from sleep many times at night. This will disrupt your sleep pattern and prevent you from getting restorative, healing sleep.
  • You have a high risk of showing behavior problems such as anger, frustration, and aggression.
  • Long-term OSA can raise your blood pressure, give you hypertension, make your heart grow bigger, and increase your risk of getting a stroke or heart attack.
  • Frequent sleep disruptions in the night may make you feel sleepy during the day. As a result, you may have difficulty concentrating in school or at work and so be unproductive. It also increases your chances of getting involved in a car accident, if you drive.

 

 

Snoring Prevention And Treatment

I. Lifestyle Changes and Home Remedies

Elevate The Head Of Your Bed

Raising the head of your bed by at least 4 inches may help keep your airways open and prevent snoring. You may use three or four pillows to help you get the required elevation.

 

Keep Your Body Hydrated

Dehydration may make mucus form in your nose and you may snore as a result. Men should try to drink at least 15 cups of water a day and women 11 cups of water a day.

 

Maintain A Healthy Weight

When you become overweight, extra fat may be deposited around your neck and it can narrow the airways and make you snore.

 

Avoid Taking Alcohol

Don’t drink alcohol at least 2 hours before you sleep. Alcohol will make your throat muscles relax and obstruct the airways.

 

Avoid Taking Sedatives

Sedatives will depress your central nervous system and cause the muscles in your throat to relax. If you want to take sedatives, discuss that with your doctor.

 

Exercise Your Throat Muscles

There are some exercises you can do to strengthen your throat muscles. One of them is to sing.

And for a few minutes every day, position the tip of your tongue against the back of your teeth and slide your tongue backward as you move the tip along the roof of your mouth.

 

Sleep On Your Side

When you sleep on your back, your tongue will fall backward into your throat. This will narrow your airway and the flow of air will be partially impeded.

If you always roll onto your back when you sleep, sleep with a body pillow, a type of pillow that can help you sleep on your side throughout the night.

Alternatively, sew something at the back of your pajamas that will make you feel uncomfortable and wake up when you lie on your back.

 

Treat Nasal Congestion

A steroid spray can help you relieve chronic congestion in your nose. Alternatively, fill a big bowl with hot water, bend your head over it, cover your head with a large towel, and inhale the steam.

 

Use A Nasal Strip

Nasal strips can be attached to the bridge of your nose to help widen the space in your nasal passage so you can breathe easier.

 

Use A Nasal Dilator

This is a stiff, sticky strip that can be placed on your nose. It can help reduce the resistance of the air that flows through your nose so you can breathe without difficulty.

 

Use A Humidifier In Your Room

Dry air in your room can cause or worsen your snoring. Humidifiers can help moisten the air in your bedroom. The moisture will help lubricate your throat and make it easier for air to flow in and out.

 

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep deprivation can make your throat muscles relax and make you snore. Adults should try and get at least 7 hours of sleep a night while children must sleep between 8 and 9 hours a day.

 

 

II. Medical Treatments

If you try all the home remedies above and still snore, you can try surgery. There are a number of surgical procedures that can be used to treat this condition.

 

 

Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Snoring can occur together with a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It’s not every snorer who also has OSA.

However, if in addition to snoring you see any of the symptoms below, consult a doctor immediately so he can evaluate whether you have OSA or not.

  • Restless sleep
  • Breathing stops during sleep
  • Gasping during sleep
  • Choking during sleep
  • Chest pain during sleep
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Sore throat when you wake up
  • Abnormal daytime sleepiness

 

 

Takeaway

Snoring can disrupt your sleep and annoy those around you. It may also occur with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which can increase a person’s risk of developing diseases such as hypertension and stroke. The good news is that you can prevent snoring by making lifestyle changes, and there are treatments for it.

However, if you see the symptoms of sleep apnea listed above, consult your doctor.

 

REFERENCE

Adewole, O.O., Adeyemo, H., Ayeni, F., Anteyi, E.A., Ajuwon, Z.O., Erhabor, G.E., Adewole, T.T.: Prevalence and correlates of snoring among adults in Nigeria. Afr Health Sci. 2008 Jun.; 8(2):108-13.

 

 

Published: December 20, 2022.

 

 

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