Snoring: Causes & Remedies

What is snoring?

Snoring is a common and widespread disorder that affects about 75% of the population over the age of 60, mostly males. It is an obstruction of the upper airways that can become chronic over time and in severe cases, snoring can threaten respiratory functions.

What are its causes?

There are several factors that facilitate snoring: aging, enlarged tonsils, deviated nasal septum, allergies, sleep position and many more.

“The typical noise made while sleeping is referred to as snoring and it is the result of incorrect breathing, caused by a change in the caliber of the upper aerodigestive tract (nose, pharynx, and larynx). Snoring occurs when air pressure within the airways is affected, causing the tissue to vibrate. Almost always, the causes of these obstructions lead to more or less severe alterations. These alterations include the nasal septum, inferior turbinates or oropharynx, enlarged uvula, soft palate and tongue base. Snoring studentSnoring is caused by sleeping in a supine position, while the frequency of snoring decreases significantly when an individual turns to their side. All this is simply due to biomechanical reasons, because in the supine position the uvula and soft palate suffer the highest level of vibration.”

Snoring can indicate sleep apnea, a potentially life-threatening condition that requires medical attention. Sleep apnea is a breathing obstruction, causing the sleeper to keep waking up in order to begin breathing again. Normal snoring doesn’t interfere with the quality of an individual’s sleeping pattern and may simply be a result of tiredness.

Can snoring trigger additional respiratory function disorders? 

“Snoring is simply considered an annoying disturbance among a peaceful environment. Obstructive sleep apnea (defined as Anglo-Saxon obstructive sleep apnea syndrome) presents itself only in chronic cases where alterations are evident. In such cases, individuals who snore are subject to moments of actual interruption of breathing for a few seconds. This can trigger more severe problems such as hypersomnia, which is a syndrome that involves persistent drowsiness during the daytime.”

Are there any diseases associated with snoring? 

“One of the diseases more commonly associated with snoring is obesity. In fact, it was determined that obese individuals begin to snore because the growth of mass weight increases accordingly to the thickness of the walls of the upper aerodigestive tract that impede the airways.”    

How can snoring be treated? 

The first diagnostic phase includes an otolaryngological visit to observe the nasal septum, inferior turbinates and oropharynx. Once the critical sites are identified, an endoscopy must be performed on the upper airway by use of fiber optic instruments. Finally, a radiological examination may be necessary to measure the size of the vault palate and tongue. In fact, there is no single ideal and conclusive examination.

In cases of significant weight gain, the first step to reducing snoring is to prescribe the patient a weight-loss diet. Surgical treatment may be necessary as well. In such cases, the sections of the upper airways that are too narrow or that vibrate during breathing may need to be reshaped. The surgery, which is performed under local anesthesia in an outpatient setting, affects mainly the nose (septoplasty, turbinoplasty) and oropharynx (surgery of the soft palate and uvula). All these treatment methods can even be performed with more specific surgical instruments, such as a laser and the use of radio frequencies.

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