What Causes Snoring?

[updated August 2019]

About half of people snore at some point in their lives with it being more common in men. Snoring tends to run in families and becomes more common as you get older. About 40 percent of adult men and 24 percent of adult women are habitual snorers. In fact, snoring affects approximately 90 million American adults.

What Causes Snoring?

snoring - symptoms

The act of snoring occurs when a person has blocked or narrow airways. The noise is caused by vibrating tissues, which become agitated as the airflow goes through narrow airways. There are many factors that can bring about snoring, such as certain sleeping positions or a medical problem like sleep apnea. In the case of sleep apnea, snoring treatments may include a CPAP device or an oral sleep appliance to aid in opening the airways.

A person may snore for a number of reasons including

  • nasal congestion
  • lying in a poor sleeping position
  • the use of alcohol, medications, or certain medical problems
  • allergies and congestion
  • sleep apnea, which occurs when a person has paused breathing while sleeping.

Sleep apnea can become dangerous to a person’s health and wellbeing. Many dentists will prescribe various snoring remedies, such as a sleep apnea mask or appliance that helps control a person’s breathing while sleeping. These treatments can help remedy a person’s snoring, making a more comfortable sleep for the snorer and their sleeping partner.

Could Your Snoring be Serious?

Most people think of snoring as an irritating but harmless activity—unless, of course, you or your partner is the one suffering from it. In fact, snoring could be a warning sign of a dangerous health problem. As this video explains, snoring has been associated with a number of serious issues, including thickening arteries, memory loss, and obstructive sleep apnea . If you have sleep apnea, you actually stop breathing for short intervals while you’re asleep. This can not only deprive you of your nightly rest, but can also make you more vulnerable to contracting diabetes, heart disease, and other problems. If you have severe snoring, you may want to seek out a sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment.

Distinguishing Between Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Most people do not realize there are many differences between snoring and suffering from sleep apnea. Snoring may be disruptive, but sleep apnea can be dangerous if it is not treated soon. Let’s take a closer look at how to distinguish between snoring and sleep apnea.

The Physical Differences

The most important differences between snoring and sleep apnea occur within the body. Someone who is simply snoring only does so because certain respiratory structures within the body are vibrating. The uvula in the back of the throat, a large tongue, or nasal obstruction can block the air as it moves through these respiratory structures. This causes snoring. Sleep apnea occurs because there is a blockage of air or the body has a weakened respiratory response. Though patients may not know they have sleep apnea, they will experience fatigue throughout the day that may interrupt their daily lives.

The Audible Differences

Many patients may not realize they have sleep apnea until a sleeping partner says something. Sleep apnea is not usually noticeable to the sufferer except through tiredness during the day. A sleeping partner may notice the frequent breaks in breathing that occur to someone with sleep apnea. When a patient snores, he or she can wake up from the sound of their own snoring. A sleeping partner may also notice if their partner is snoring.

The Treatment Differences

There are various treatments for both snoring and sleep apnea. Snoring treatments can range from devices that place pressure on the nasal passages to surgeries that correct certain tissues. Sleep apnea treatments range from a machine called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, to custom-made oral appliances. The CPAP machine forces air into the airways throughout the night.

Oral sleep apnea appliances angle the jaw in a way that forces the airway open. It is best to speak with a dentist trained in sleep apnea solutions and snoring remedies to ensure either issue is corrected. At Smiles@Southcenter, we offer alternatives to CPAP masks such as The Moses oral appliance, which is most likely covered by your dental insurance. The Moses works by positioning the lower jaw and tongue in a more forward position. This pulls the tongue off the back of the throat and opens the airway for unobstructed breathing.

Why Your Dentist Should Know About Your Snoring Problem

A snoring problem might be more than just a disturbance for your sleeping partner. Not treating your snoring could lead to a range of symptoms that can impact your quality of life. And for people who snore due to sleep apnea, there are treatment options your dentist can help you with.

When you notice that you have a snoring problem, your dentist might not be the first person you would think to call. In reality, your dentist can offer snoring treatment that can change your life. The 2 of you can work together to find sleep apnea solutions that work for you, so you can avoid the headaches, fatigue, and snoring that come along with sleep apnea. Solving this snoring problem can help you and your partner enjoy a better night of sleep, so you can both wake up rested and ready for the day ahead.


About the Author – Dr. Thuy Nguyen, DDS

Dr. Thuy Nguyen DDS in Tukwila, WA holds a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and received a Doctorate of Dental Surgery from the University of Washington. In 2011, she also completed the Progressive Orthodontic Program. She is known for her fine work and a friendly and caring attitude. Her enthusiasm for dentistry is contagious, as she designs and improves smile after smile. Dr. Nguyen is bilingual in English and Vietnamese. She maintains memberships to the Seattle King County Dental Association, The Washington State Dental Association, and The American Dental Association.

References

Snoring – Overview and Facts. SleepEducation.org. http://sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/snoring/overview-and-facts

Snoring and Sleep. National Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/snoring-and-sleep

Snoring Statistics | Statistics Related to Snoring Problems. Sleep Disorders Guide. https://www.sleepdisordersguide.com/article/basics/snoring-statistics-statistics-related-to-snoring-problems

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