Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know About Snoring To Improve Our Sleep, Relationships, And Health

Text by Dr. Nina Radcliff/Photos by K. Cecchini

“Laugh and the world laughs with you. Snore and you sleep alone.” Unlike high blood pressure or blood sugars, snoring is unique in that it causes problems not just to the person with the issue, but to both partners. As a result, 25 percent of married couples state that they sleep separately because their partners snore. Besides sleeping alone, it can also adversely affect our health. Fortunately, there is a lot that can be done to turn down the noise, improve our relationships, and maintain our best health.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know About Snoring To Improve Our Sleep, Relationships, And Health:

Why all that noise? A partial obstruction of our breathing passages can cause our respiratory structures to vibrate when we breathe. The vibration results in the harsh sound that we call snoring. To get a better understanding of this, try to create a snoring sound so we can feel the vibration.

What can cause a partial obstruction?
• When we are overweight, extra fatty tissue accumulates not just on our waist and hips, but also along our breathing passages.
• Drinking, smoking, and certain medications can cause our airway muscles to relax, making them more likely to vibrate when breathing.
• With age cometh wisdom, narrowing of our throats, and decreased airway muscle tone.
• Nasal deviation and sinus problems can narrow our breathing passages.
• Sleeping flat on our backs can cause our tongue or other fleshy structures to relax and block our airways.
• And some of us are just built with long uvulas (the funny looking dangly thing), large tongues, or narrow throats.

Is snoring the same as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)? No. When we snore, we are breathing but the noise we hear is due to a partial (not total) obstruction; there is movement of air. OSA means that our breathing has stopped temporarily due to complete breathing obstruction and there is no movement of air. This causes us to wake up and is often accompanied by a loud snort or gasping sound. Over time, the repeated sleep interference and drops in oxygen levels can result in a number of ill effects on our health.

What are some ill-effects that can occur from OSA? OSA may be dubbed the “not-so-quiet” culprit of a number of chronic and dangerous health conditions. Studies have shown that it can increase our risk for stroke, heart disease, acid reflux, car accidents and other injuries, mental health issues, and weight gain. In other words, we cannot ignore the warning sounds.

What can I do if I snore? Losing weight, quitting smoking, and avoiding heavy meals and alcohol at night are some lifestyle changes that can literally put a stop to the noise. For some, sleeping on our sides, performing throat strengthening exercises, or “clearing” our nasal passages by humidifying the room or nasal sprays may do the trick.

When should I see a doctor? When lifestyle changes do not work; we experience daytime drowsiness; or we gasp or choke while sleeping. Our doctors will take a complete history and perform a physical exam. Based on the findings, he or she may order a radiology imaging or sleep study to determine the cause and best treatment. One option is a CPAP (pronounced cee-pap) machine. This device blows pressurized air into a mask that covers our mouth and nose in order to keep our airway open while sleeping. In some cases, a dental appliance may be used to prevent our lower jaw or tongue from blocking airflow. It may be necessary to undergo surgery to remove tissue or correct abnormalities in order to increase the size of our airway.

Although snoring may cause us to sleep alone, we can solve the problem by coming together. I was once told “Teamwork divides the task but multiplies the success.” Dealing with the problem head on will reap rewards to both our relationships and health. So, let’s breathe easier and not wait to exhale.

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Photograph by K. Cecchini

Notice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.