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Man snoring
Personal Health

A Quiet Night's Sleep: What Causes Snoring and How Can It Affect Your Health?

Have you been told that you're a snorer? Or does your loved one snore and keep you up at night? A lot of the time, snoring is nonthreatening, but it can also be an indicator of an underlying health issue. Here's what you should know, plus tips on when you should seek medical advice for snoring.

What Causes Snoring?

Snoring is the sound that results when air movement is obstructed in the mouth and throat. As you relax during sleep, the soft palate and uvula collapse onto the tongue and upper throat. When air passes through these tissues, it results in the vibrating sound know as snoring. There are several causes that increase the likelihood of snoring and its intensity:

  • Overweight people tend to have narrower airways.
  • Alcohol and other sedatives intensify the relaxation of airway tissues.
  • As people age, airway tissues lose muscle tone and are more relaxed.
  • Certain sleeping positions, such as sleeping on your back, can exacerbate the problem.
  • Abnormal structures such as poor muscle tone, a long soft palate, a deviated septum, or the presence of polyps increase the likelihood of snoring.
  • Inflammation of airway tissues or a simple stuffy nose can induce a temporary snoring problem.

When to Take Snoring Seriously

Snoring may be an annoyance to others, but for the snorer, it can be problematic. One of the most serious problems associated with snoring is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This occurs when the airway tissues collapse to the point of interference with normal breathing and "is characterized by multiple episodes of breathing pauses greater than 10 seconds at a time," according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology.

Because proper oxygenation is essential to cellular health, multiple problems arise when you frequently stop breathing while you're asleep. Sleep apnea increases risks for injuries from accidents, high blood pressure, obesity, arrhythmias, heart failure, stroke, and diabetes. Talk to your doctor about snoring, especially if:

  • You awaken from sleep gasping for air.
  • You frequently feel sleepy during the daylight hours.
  • Sleepiness interferes with your day-to-day routine.
  • Sleep seems, or is, unavoidable.

Now that you know what causes snoring, if you snore, take it seriously and get checked out by your doctor. Talk about the best treatment options and before you know it, you (and your loved ones) will be getting a good, healthy night's sleep.

Posted in Personal Health

Since retiring from a career as a medical, geriatric, and public social worker, Charles Hooper has published hundreds of articles and blog posts on a variety of topics, including health and medicine, politics and government, and advocacy. Charles graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master's degree in social work. He received an Outstanding Scholar award and graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where he majored in sociology and political science.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.