Snoring: An Overview Causes, Consequences, and Remedies

All of us have experiences with snoring, one way or another. If we don’t snore ourselves, we may have friends, partners, or family members who snore. Some people snore heavily, some snore only a little, and some don’t snore at all. Some people hate it, and some don’t mind. Snoring is experienced subjectively, and in many forms, ranges and intensities. It is as diverse as people themselves, affecting us in varying ways and degrees.

Snoring is a non-issue for people who don’t snore, or snore only to such a small extent that there are virtually no effects on the quality of their lives. However, some people experience snoring negatively, either physically or psychologically. For some people, snoring can sometimes point toward sleep disorders and become dangerous. For these cases, understanding the causes, consequences, and available remedies becomes crucial.

What is Snoring?

The Cambridge Dictionary definition of snoring characterizes it as "noisy breathing while you are sleeping". The medical definition provides more specific information. In the most basic form, medically speaking, snoring can be defined as "the sound you make when your breathing is blocked while you are asleep. The sound is caused by tissues at the top of your airway that strike each other and vibrate".

This hoarse, raspy sound can range widely. From a soft, almost inaudible sound that barely differs from loud breathing to extremely loud, irritating, and annoying noises that can continuously wake up other people. And this loud, chronic snoring is the point where it can become problematic, decreasing sleep quality by causing sleep deficiencies that may evolve into chronic disorders in sleep patterns.

How Common is Snoring?

Snoring is very common among the population. It occurs in approximately 57% of males, and 40% of females. This percentage increases with age. Prevalence ranges each night and therefore, the percentages in individuals may vary in time.

What Causes Snoring?

There are risk factors that increase the occurrence of snoring. Some of these risk factors are possible to work with and thus, decrease such risk. Other factors can not be influenced. Risk factors include the following:

  • Older age
  • Overweight and Obesity
  • Drinking alcohol and taking sedatives
  • Chronic blockages/ congestions of nasal passages
  • Small jaw and other jaw abnormalities
  • Being a male
  • Females post menopause
  • Pregnancy
  • Abnormal structures that can block airflow (eg, large tonsils, a deviated nasal septum, nasal polyps, etc.)
  • Genetics

What are the Consequences of Snoring?

For most people, snoring does not pose any significant danger. However, if snoring is chronic, loud, and intense, it can carry certain danger. The danger of snoring is two-fold: physical and psychological. Physical danger can be understood as objective danger, while psychological danger is mainly a subjective one, depending on the social circumstances of each individual.

When Does Snoring Become Physically Detrimental?

Snoring becomes physically dangerous when it is a symptom of serious sleep disorders, mainly with the presence of obstructed sleep apnea (OSA). "OSA is a sleep disorder that involves cessation or significant decrease in airflow in the presence of breathing effort. It is the most common type of sleep-disordered breathing and is characterized by recurrent episodes of upper airway collapse during sleep".

OSA can lead to increased risks of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Chronic, intense, and persistent snoring is in many cases a good indicating symptom of OSA. It is important to be aware of other symptoms. The following symptoms point to the existence of OSA:

  • Surplus sleeping during the day and lack of concentration
  • Audible snoring
  • Periods without breathing during sleep
  • Abrupt awakenings
  • Gasping and choking
  • Headaches, mood changes, depression, and irritability
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Sweating during sleep
  • Decreased sex drive

The objective physical danger that presents itself to patients suffering from OSA is immense. Because of the real possibility of developing life-threatening conditions, it is very important that people who experience the above-listed group of symptoms seek professional medical help. Only medical professionals can test for and ascertain the presence of OSA in individuals and administer treatment. If you suffer from these symptoms, don’t hesitate, seek professional medical attention immediately.

When Does Snoring Become Psychologically Detrimental?

While not as medically serious, the psychological impact of snoring, especially loud and consistent snoring, can become quite detrimental. The danger here is subjective, mainly having to do with the impact snoring has on interpersonal relationships. Snoring usually does not wake the person who snores, but it can become extremely irritating to other people that come into regular contact with a person during their sleep. While some people don’t mind the sound of snoring, many people simply can’t stand it. The loud noises of snoring may wake them up throughout the night. This can cause extreme irritability and sleep deficiencies, which in turn negatively impact their day-to-day life. In extreme cases, this can lead to separation, as one person is unable to continue to sleep in proximity to the other person.

Another subjective impact of loud snoring is the emotion of shame. People who snore are not able to do anything about it when they are asleep and can become a target of shaming from their partner or their social group. Shame can contribute to the deterioration of their interpersonal relationships. If the partner or their social group does not mind their snoring, this of course is a non-issue. However, if it is an issue, it can be a hard one to overcome in a healthy way.

What Are Basic, Non-Surgical Remedies for Snoring Reduction?

There are many remedies to stop snoring, non-surgical and surgical. Some people are able to get rid of snoring completely using non-surgical strategies. If non-surgical strategies do not work, surgical strategies may be required. In this case, it is necessary to advise a medical professional. Following are some of the most common, non-surgical remedies used for snoring reduction or elimination:

  • Weight loss for overweight people, lack of muscle tone contributes to snoring
  • Sleeping on the side instead of sleeping on the back, due to tongue positioning
  • Quitting smoking to decrease throat irritation
  • Avoiding alcohol, especially before bed, because it is a tissue relaxant
  • Avoiding sleeping pills, because they function as a tissue relaxant
  • Allergy treatment to decrease throat and nasal congestion
  • Nasal spray use to decrease throat and nasal congestion
  • Wearing anti-snoring devices including:
  • Mandibular advancement device
  • Vestibular shield
  • Nasal dilators and nasal strips