Chainsaw. Fog horn. Angry bear. Freight train. A cow giving birth. An Ozzy Osbourne concert. A wounded warthog. These are but a few of the colorful (and sometimes painful) descriptions of the snoring sounds of otherwise loved and presumably lovable sleepers.
Snoring is a sound produced by air waves passing over loose tissue on its way from the tip of the nose or lips to the lungs. The looser the tissue and the more forceful the airflow, the louder and more remarkable the resulting noise will become. The loose tissue may be in the area of the nose (such as polyps), the nasopharynx (adenoids), the back of the mouth or throat (uvula, soft palate, tongue) or lower in the throat (vocal cord abnormalities). Thickened mucus in any of these areas can also cause or add to the noisy vibration.
It used to be thought that snoring was merely annoying or comical (depending on whether you could close the door or not…). We now know that snoring may be a sign of a very serious breathing disorder called obstructive sleep apnea. In this condition the same tissue that is loose enough to vibrate noisily can end up blocking the airway and prevent the air from reaching the lungs. This can lead to a decrease in oxygen in the blood and disturb the sleep of the victim. The biggest problem is that this repeats over and over throughout the night and continues night after night. Chronic sleep deprivation and life threatening medical conditions can be a result.
There is new evidence that snoring itself may be damaging to the large blood vessels in the neck. Just like using a jack hammer or electric sander for hours and hours on end can damage the nerves and vessels of the hands and wrist, the vibration of snoring may be causing similar damage in the area of the head and neck. One recent study has shown that in people who snore loudly, the blood vessels that carry blood to the brain were damaged and “roughed up” on the inside. This makes it more likely that a blood clot can form or that rough edges can break off and cause a blockage preventing blood from getting to the brain, causing a stroke.
Snoring can be improved or eliminated through many different approaches or a combination of them. Snorers should:
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid alcohol and sedatives near bedtime
- Stop smoking
- Perform nasal rinses to reduce mucus
- Treat allergies as appropriate
- Be evaluated and treated for obstructive sleep apnea
- Sleep on their side or slightly elevated on a wedge
- Avoid sleep deprivation
- See a medical specialist for additional help if needed
What does your bed partner’s snoring sound like? Let us know in the comments below?
Best Wishes for Peaceful Sleep,