95% of the population snores at some point in their lives. Normally, snoring is more frequent in men than in women, but the proportion becomes equal after menopause. Thus, it is a socially accepted fact that men snore and women endure this horrible nightmare. Until now, no one consulted a doctor for snoring, as it was considered natural and associated with good sleep. However, reality shows the opposite: the more you snore, the worse you sleep. More importantly, snoring can be reduced, or even made to disappear altogether.
One of the most important reasons for discomfort in couples is snoring. Snoring is an anomalous act that only occurs when we sleep, and is the consequence of the vibration of the soft tissues of the oropharynx when the breathed air passes through.
The snoring process. How is it produced?
Inspired air enters the nose, passes through the nostrils, passes behind the soft palate and through the pharynx, and then through the trachea and into the lungs. These structures, known as the upper airways, are muscles of various sizes and functions. When a person is awake, the muscle tone of these structures is sufficient to keep these airways wide open, and air enters and exits through them without any problem, although with sleep, these muscles relax.
The relaxation produces a closure of these airways, and the air that enters and exits makes the vocal cords and the soft parts of the neck vibrate slightly, giving rise to snoring.
What are the causes of snoring?
– Mechanical: they are all those that produce an obstruction of the upper airways. There are several reasons that make snoring more intense. In addition to the loss of pharyngeal tone, if the place where the air must pass through is hindered, the sound will be louder. For this reason, any impediment in the upper respiratory tract can lead to snoring. In the nose there may be polyps, deviated septum, rhinitis or simply mucus that hinders the passage of air.
– Morphological: the shape of the face can also influence snoring, especially in the lower jaw. In people who have a chin that is thrown back (retrognathia) or small (micrognathia), it should be assumed that when they fall asleep and relax, the muscles of that part of the face will move, blocking the entry of air, causing snoring. For this reason, snoring is much more frequent when sleeping on the back, since even the tongue can impede the passage of air.
– Overweight: weight gain can also be a cause of snoring. This is perhaps the most important reason, since many people, especially men, gain a few kilos as they get older, accumulating that fat in the abdomen and in the internal muscles of the neck. This fatty tissue causes the muscles to become more flaccid and to close more easily, causing the sound of air passing through.
Thus, the production of snoring is simply a problem of the passage of air from the nose or mouth to the lungs and vice versa.
What are the repercussions of snoring?
Snoring bothers the person who hears it and does not bother the person who produces it. The intensity of snoring will depend on the difficulty of air entry and exit.
The repercussions are different for the one who produces the noise and the one who suffers it. The snorer, if not told, will hardly notice that he snores, and will only do so on rare occasions, usually at the beginning of sleep.
Evidently, the snorer does not do it because he wants to, but because of the difficulty of entry and exit of air. Thus, the continuous awakenings to which he is subjected by “little noises” or nudges, make the snorer get into a bad mood.
However, the case of those who suffer the acoustic consequences of snoring is worse, since trying to fall asleep can be impossible. In severe cases, where snoring is accompanied by apnea, it can reach 80 decibels, a noise similar to the crossing of two streets with four or more lanes of cars.
How is snoring diagnosed?
It is not necessary to resort to sophisticated techniques, since it is enough to listen and define if it is a continuous snoring. This information is of vital importance to make a diagnosis, because whether it is soft or intense, the important thing is that the snorer does not stop, that is to say, that he does not stop breathing at any time.
The best time to check would be to observe the snorer for one hour continuously. If the noise is continuous, then it is a benign snoring, that is, at least for the person who produces it – for the listener it is malignant, since he/she will not be able to sleep -, since it does not have any repercussions on his/her organism.
If breathing stops occur, a specialist in Sleep Medicine and Clinical Neurophysiology should be consulted to diagnose a possible Sleep Apnea Syndrome. When we are sure that there is only a continuous snoring, then the patient should check all the anatomical structures that may be involved in the production of snoring.
Treatment of snoring
– Mechanical cause: if the problem is due to enlarged angina or adenoids, deviated septum or large uvula, it is always best to consult an otolaryngologist.
– Morphological cause: if the cause is a malformation of the lower jaw (either too small or pulled backwards), then a dentist should be consulted, most commonly prescribing a dental prosthesis that will be placed at night between the teeth to prevent the jaw from moving backwards when we sleep and closing the air passage through the neck.
– Cause overweight: if the reason is a few extra kilos, the snoring will disappear when the patient loses weight. It is the most effective method, but also the most difficult to perform, as it requires a high degree of willpower.
It is especially important not to use the “miracle” home remedies advertised in the press, radio and television. Drops that cure snoring, nasal tweezers, pillows… These inventions are nothing more than “gimmicks” that only serve to fill the pockets of those who manufacture them.