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What causes snoring, and what can I do about it?

By July 15, 2022November 21st, 2022Sleep Medicine
Young man snoring while sleeping on his back

Sleeping helps our bodies rest, recover, and reset. But, if you’re snoring throughout the night, then you may not be getting the refreshing sleep that you need to thrive. Luckily, sleep medicine is helping people get life-changing, rejuvenating sleep with safe and effective solutions. 

If you’re not getting the healthy and restful sleep that you need, then it’s time to talk to Dr. Timothy E. Mickiewicz. He blends the science of dentistry with sleep medicine to deliver effective results that benefit your mind and body. Getting started is easy–simply call our Sacramento, CA, office at (916) 469-9178 or contact us online to request your appointment

Here, Dr. Mickiewicz and his team will address some of the reasons why you might be snoring and what you can do about it. Even minor changes in your sleep and lifestyle habits can make a monumental difference in your sleep quality!

What is snoring?

While we sleep, our muscles begin to relax–even the muscles in our mouths and throats. As these oropharyngeal structures relax, they begin to close off the airway. This means that air has less room to flow to and from our lungs, which produces turbulence. 

The turbulence produced by restricted airflow causes our oropharyngeal structures to vibrate, which produces a sound. That sound is what we commonly refer to as snoring, and it is a common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). 

But, snoring produces much more than just a dissonant vibration. It also produces a host of potential health risks that cannot be ignored. Certain demographics and behaviors may increase the likelihood of developing the health risks that are associated with snoring. 

Snoring Risk Factors

It’s likely that most people have snored at least once in their life. However, nearly a quarter of the population are habitual snorers. So, why are some people more likely to snore compared to others? Here are just a few reasons why you might be snoring:

  • Age: As we get older, we lose muscle tone–even in our oropharyngeal structures. As a result, we tend to snore more as we get older.
  • Sex: Research suggests that men tend to snore more than women. In fact, approximately half of all men snore, while only about 30% of all women snore.  
  • Weight: As we gain weight, fatty tissue accumulates around the body, including the neck. While lying supine (or on the back), the excess weight around the neck presses downward on the airway. As a result, the extra tissue restricts airflow, which leads to snoring.
  • Sleeping position: When it comes to snoring, some sleeping positions are more problematic than others. For example, lying supine allows the jaw and tongue to shift toward the back of the throat, which obstructs the airway.
  • Drugs: From recreational to medicinal, some drugs can increase the possibility of snoring. Many pharmaceutical tranquilizers (like Ativan and Valium) can relax oropharyngeal muscles, and even marijuana (medicinal or otherwise) can cause the same effect.
  • Alcohol: As a known sedative and depressant, alcohol overly relaxes our muscles while we sleep, which results in snoring and fitful slumber. 
  • Smoking: The smoke from cigarettes causes irritation along the airway. This irritation leads to inflammation and increased mucus production, both of which can lead to or worsen snoring.
  • Allergies: Histamines are the body’s defense against allergens. For many people, the release of histamines causes a stuffy nose and difficulty breathing, which frequently leads to snoring. 
  • Anatomy: All bodies are different, which means that some of these anatomical differences (like a larger tongue, nasal polyps, and enlarged tonsils) may place some people at an increased risk of snoring.

What happens if I don’t address snoring?

For some people, snoring is a once-in-awhile issue that does not result in any long-term, negative effects. However, other people snore nightly, which can have devastating long-term effects on their overall health, including:

  • Excessive fatigue during the daytime
  • Brain fog or difficulty focusing
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression
  • Chronic headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Addressing snoring sooner rather than later could prevent life-threatening issues from worsening over time. So, let’s explore some ways that you can treat persistent snoring now.

How can I treat snoring?

There are several things you can do to prevent snoring while you sleep, including:

  • Limiting alcohol consumption: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that alcohol consumption should be limited to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. However, both sexes should avoid alcohol within three hours of their expected bedtime.
  • Quitting smoking: There are several health benefits to quitting smoking, but quitting can also vastly improve sleep quality. The lack of irritation in the airway will allow sleepers to get a steady and full supply of air while they sleep, which limits snoring.
  • Losing weight: If excess weight is the suspected culprit of increased snoring, then losing even five pounds of fat could significantly improve snoring and sleep quality.
  • Taking allergy medicine or nasal decongestants: If allergies are giving you a stuffy, runny nose, then antihistamines and nasal decongestants could be the answer to solve bothersome snoring.
  • Changing sleep positions: Sleeping supine may feel natural for many people, but it isn’t conducive to preventing snoring. Lying on the side of the body reduces the effects of gravity on the airway, which allows air to flow in and out of the lungs unrestricted.
  • Getting surgery: If snoring is the result of anatomical obstructions (like nasal polyps or enlarged tonsils), then surgery to remove the structure could result in better sleep quality.
  • Anti-snoring devices: From pillows to mouthpieces, there are plenty of anti-snoring solutions for snorers. Depending on the cause of snoring, Dr. Mickiewicz may recommend a chinstrap (which keeps the jaw in proper alignment), a mandibular advancement device (which moves the jaw forward), or a tongue stabilizing device (which prevents the tongue from sliding toward the back of the throat). 

Ask Us How We Can Help You Stop Snoring Now

If you’re tired of waking up tired, then it’s time to see how Dr. Mickiewicz can help you stop snoring. Schedule your consultation at our Sacramento office by calling our team at (916) 469-9178 or by sending us a message online.