Snoring; When a Minor Inconvenience Leads to a Critical Health Issue

by Dr. Mihir Mohan T

Snoring is a common problem that affects millions of people worldwide. While it may seem harmless it can actually have serious consequences for your health.

In order to understand how snoring occurs, it is important to understand the anatomy of the airway and how it works during sleep.

When we breathe, air flows through the nose or mouth and into the throat. It pass through a narrow passage known as the pharynx. The pharynx is lined with muscles that help to keep the airway open during normal breathing.

During sleep, the muscles in the throat relax, which can cause the airway to narrow. So the flow of air through the throat becomes turbulent causing the tissues in the throat to vibrate, which produces the sound we know as snoring. Any narrowing in the nose can also cause turbulence.

Factors that Contribute to Snoring

  • Age: As we age, the muscles in the throat tend to lose and become weaker, which can increase the likelihood of snoring.
  • Obesity: Excess weight can put pressure on the airway narrowing and increase the likelihood of snoring.
  • Smoking: Smoking can irritate the tissues in the throat and cause inflammation, which can contribute to snoring.
  • Alcohol and Sedatives: Alcohol and sedatives can relax the muscles in the throat, which can increase the likelihood of snoring.
  • Nasal Congestion: Anything that blocks the flow of air through the nose can contribute to snoring. This can include allergies, colds, and other conditions that cause nasal congestion.
  • Sleep Position: Sleeping on your back can make snoring worse, as the tongue fall back and narrow the airway.

Does Snoring Affect Your Sleep ?

Snoring can have several negative effects on sleep, including:

  • Reduced sleep quality: Even if you don't fully wake up from snoring, it can still disrupt the quality of your sleep. Snoring can also cause problems with bed partner leading resentment and arguments.
  • Sleep Apnea: its a condition in which breathing stops resulting in a drop of oxygen levels in the body. It can lead to Excessive Daytime Sleepiness. Longtime untreated Apnea may result in multisystemic disorders.  

How to Alleviate Snoring?

  • Avoid taking sleeping pills as some pills may cause the upper airways to relax which leads to snoring
  • Avoid consuming alcohol after 6 Pm as it causes relaxation of muscles and swelling of the tissues of the airway
  • Changing sleep position as sleeping on the back cause snoring worse, so try sleeping on your side instead.  
  • Quit smoking : smoking causes the swelling of the tissues of the airways
  • Losing weight: losing weight can help to reduce the amount of pressure on your airway.

Understanding the factors that contribute to snoring can help you take steps to control it and improve your overall health. If you are experiencing snoring, talk to your doctor about treatments that can help to alleviate the problem.

Information courtesy :Dr. Mihir Mohan T, Consultant - Head & Neck Surgical Oncology

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