What Causes Snoring?
Snoring is the result of a turbulent airflow in your throat. When you are awake and standing, your airway is fully open, but when you lie down to sleep, gravity tends to pull your airway closed. And because muscles that hold your airway open are relaxed, the soft tissues of your airway are basically hanging on your jaw for support. If your jaw is in a poor position, your airway will narrow, and as it narrows, the previously free-flowing air becomes restricted and turbulent, resulting in vibrations that we hear as sound.
Whether your airway narrows enough to cause snoring or not depends on many factors, including:
- Anatomy of the jaw and airway
- Your weight, and how much weight you carry in the neck
- Alcohol consumption at night
- Some medications
- Sleeping position—sleeping on your back makes snoring worse
You may try addressing some of these on your own before seeking treatment. Losing weight and quitting smoking can eliminate snoring. Reducing alcohol consumption at night may also reduce or eliminate snoring. Some people even try to change their sleeping position by sewing a tennis ball into the back of their pyjamas so they can’t sleep on their back.
Is It Sleep Apnoea?
About 30% of snorers suffer from obstructive sleep apnoea. In sleep apnoea, your airway doesn’t just narrow at night, it closes completely, cutting off your air supply. If your partner ever notices that your snoring ends in a choking, gurgling, or gasping noise, or if your snoring is accompanied by daytime sleepiness, mood disorders, loss of focus, difficulty losing weight, or waking unrested, you should be evaluated for sleep apnoea. You should also investigate sleep apnoea if you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, or diabetes.
The most effective snoring treatment will depend on the patient. Following evaluation for sleep apnoea with the help of a health professional, you may prefer either CPAP or oral appliance therapy. Oral appliance therapy works similarly to a sports mouthguard, used at night while you sleep. It will hold your jaw in the proper position to keep your airway more open at night. It can reduce or eliminate your snoring.