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What Causes Snoring? And How Do You Stop Doing It?

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LIGHT SNORING IS NORMAL for most people. In fact, about 45 percent of adults snore at least occasionally. It’s so common that children who are pretending to be asleep will often fake snoring to “prove” they are sleeping. What exactly is snoring, and if half the population does it, is it even possible to stop snoring?

What Makes People Snore?

As you sleep, your body relaxes, including the muscles in your soft palate. The soft palate is located at the back of the roof of your mouth. When this tissue relaxes, it collapses into the airway, causing a partial blockage and vibrating as you breathe. The sound of this vibration is snoring.

Why Do Some People Snore More Than Others?
    • Some people have a thicker soft palate or an elongated uvula (a hanging extension of the soft palate), both of which are conditions that can amplify snoring.
    • Becoming overweight can causes fatty tissue to build up near the throat, leading to snoring.
    • If you drink alcohol before bed, you’re more likely to snore because the booze relaxes your throat muscles even further.
    • Nasal congestion, which can be caused by a cold, sinus infection or chronic nasal problems, also exacerbates snoring.
    • A deviated septum, which occurs when the bone and cartilage in the center of the nose is crooked, can also cause snoring by narrowing the nasal passages.
What Can You Do About It?

If your nightly racket is disturbing your partner or having a negative effect on your own sleep quality, there are several snoring solutions you can try. (Consult a doctor before using any over-the-counter sprays or other medicinal products that claim to stop snoring.)

    • Change your sleeping position
      Sleeping on your back increases the likelihood of snoring because gravity allows the soft tissue to collapse, so sleeping on your side can reduce snoring. Some people also find relief by elevating the head of the bed, but this can sometimes lead to neck pain.
    • Avoid triggers
      As mentioned above, alcohol worsens snoring, so skipping the evening drink may help cut down on snoring. Some people find that certain things, like smoking cigarettes or eating spicy foods or red meat, seem to exacerbate snoring. If you’ve noticed specific triggers that worsen snoring, avoid those things after about 3:00 pm. Losing weight can possibly help, too.
    • Try nasal strips
      The purpose of these strips, which can be purchased at most drug stores, is to open the nasal passages. They are helpful if the source of your snoring is in your nose, but won’t work if a mouth or throat issue is to blame.
    • Practice healthy sleep habits
      When you’re sleep deprived, snoring tends to worsen. Try to go to bed at the same time every night, and aim for seven to eight hours of quality sleep.
When Is Snoring a Sign of a Problem?

If you are unable to stop snoring using non-medical methods, or if you snore heavily regardless of your sleep position, talk to your doctor about it.

About 75 percent of people who snore heavily have a condition called sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is more common than central sleep apnea. Obstructive apnea is physical, involving the muscles and tissue of the throat, while central sleep apnea is a problem with the nervous system in which the brain does not correctly send breathing signals to the body.

People who have sleep apnea actually stop breathing for short periods during sleep. They may wake up gasping for air, and some people with apnea report dreams of suffocating or drowning.

Sleep apnea is a serious condition. It can cause high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart problems because when you stop breathing, your blood oxygen levels drop. This instability puts a heavy workload on the cardiovascular system.

Certain other medical problems often appear in people with sleep apnea, including Type 2 diabetes, liver problems and metabolic syndrome. Your loud snoring can also cause sleep deprivation in your partner or roommate.

People with sleep apnea often believe that they are sleeping through the night, when in fact they are waking up repeatedly but for such brief periods of time that they don’t remember it.

If you feel constantly fatigued or sleep-deprived despite getting plenty of sleep each night, talk to your doctor about the possibility of sleep apnea.

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