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Snoring

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Snoring

About 90 million Americans snore during sleep.

Snoring is a loud noise caused by vibration of the soft palate and uvula when you sleep. You may not even be aware that you snore, unless your sleeping partner complains. Even if you aren’t aware of your snoring, it affects the quality of your sleep and can lead to more serious conditions if left untreated.

Snoring Causes

The root cause of snoring can be difficult to ascertain because it is often multifactorial. Here are common causes:

Poor muscle tone in the throat and tongue – This can happen from being over tired, drinking alcohol, or taking medications the relax you.

Obstructed nasal airways – It is four times easier to breathe through your nose than your mouth. If your nose is blocked when you are asleep, the air that passes through your mouth and obstructed nasal passages causes turbulence that vibrates your soft palate and surrounding tissue.

Bulky tissue in the throat – Anything that decreases the area of the nasopharynx and oral cavity can create and obstruction to airflow while you sleep. Large tonsils and/or adenoids, swollen mucosal lining from allergies, and excessive fat in the neck and oral area can create obstruction.

Small or set-back jaw – Those born with a small jaw or a jaw that develops in a set back position over time often snore because their tongue falls to the back of their throat when they sleep. A set back jaw develops from chronic mouth breathing from nasal obstruction. Snoring is made worse by sleeping on your back.

Snoring Treatments

It is first important to differentiate between snoring and sleep apnea by undergoing a sleep study, either at home or in a sleep center. Once sleep apnea has been ruled out, treatment can be offered.

Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol close to bedtime, sleeping on your side or with your head propped up, and maintaining a regular sleep schedule are often helpful. Oral appliances, custom made by a dentist, reposition the jaw to keep the airway open. If there is an anatomic obstruction, surgical treatment is helpful based on the diagnosis.

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Linda D. Dahl, MD