Snoring, like all sounds, loud or quiet, is caused by vibrations in the respiratory structures. It occurs during sleep when the area at the back of the throat or in the nose relaxes and narrows. The air movement is then restricted in the air passage, resulting in the sound.
There are many reasons for snoring, some of which we can control –
- Being overweight and having excess fatty tissue around the neck.
- Smoking causes inflammation of the airways and irritates the nasal passages.
- Alcohol slows the brains responses causing more relaxation than usual.
- Medication, antihistamines and sleeping pills in particular, have the same effect as alcohol.
Some of which we cannot –
- Allergies which cause swelling of the nasal passages, Asthma, colds and sinus infections.
- Having a narrow throat, enlarged adenoids or a cleft palate all contribute to snoring.
- Ageing, middle aged men in general men have a wider neck and more soft tissue which causes vibration.
The most serious type of snoring can stop the breathing; this is called Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) and can be moderate to severe. In milder cases, the airways narrow greatly but do not close. This results in breathing being very shallow, loud snoring. The more severe type of OSA is caused by the lack of muscle tone in the upper airway, which causes the airway to close fully and one or more pauses in breathing. The body’s natural reaction causes breathing again, with a gasp. It’s a very difficult condition to diagnose, and most people who have sleep apnoea don’t know they have it, as it only happens during sleep. Your partner may be the first to notice the signs.
The main causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea
- Being overweight and having a lot of fatty tissue around the neck. However some people do have sleep apnoea who are not particularly overweight.
- Enlarged tonsils, especially in children.
Once sleep Apnoea is suspected a sleep study will be carried out to confirm the diagnosis.
How your dentist can help with snoring
There are many products on the market to help with snoring, but your dentist can custom make a device for you. It is called a Mandibular Advancement Device and works by holding your lower jaw and tongue forward, thereby keeping your airway open whilst you sleep. Please speak to your dentist for further advice.