Snoring is when you breathe during sleep with a hoarse noise due to vibration of the soft palate. Most everyone knows of someone who snores, and it can be a bothersome sound that many people shrug off or laugh at, but it’s important to know that snoring may be a sign of a more serious medical condition called sleep apnea.
That is why it’s important to have a consultation with a health care provider to determine if there is more to your snore.
When you are awake the tissues in the throat and upper airway are open and allow air to flow to the lungs smoothly, but when a person falls asleep the soft tissues relax and can partially block the airway. When you snore, your airway is being partially blocked by the soft tissues in the back of the throat including the tongue and soft palate.
The picture on the left shows what a normal airway looks like during sleep; air is flowing with no obstructions. Notice that the tongue extends all the way back into the throat. The picture on the right shows what can happen when the airway collapses. The back of the tongue and the soft palate are the most common areas to collapse into the throat during sleep.
The noise comes from the vibration of these collapsed tissues in the back of the throat as air struggles to pass over the blockage when you breathe during sleep.
It's very much like the sound a flag makes when it waves in the wind.
This can happen even when the tissues are normal sized because when you fall asleep the muscles in the throat, soft palate, and uvula relax.
Most snoring usually falls between 50 and 80 decibels (db).
To put this in perspective, a normal conversation is around 60db, a vacuum cleaner 70db, and anything above 90db, such as a power lawn mower has the potential to cause ear damage after prolonged exposure.
The loudest recorded snore was at 111 db! That is literally the volume of a freight train.
There are many factors that need to be taken into account when determining why a person has an obstructed airway during sleep. Some of the causes can include, but are not limited to:
In children, snoring should never be ignored; it may increase the risk of attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other behavioral problems. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider right away if you have witnessed your child snore or stop breathing while they sleep.
Snoring can be associated with several types of sleep disorders; the most common is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS). All of these have one thing in common – you are not breathing normally while you sleep and you need to consult a health care provider to receive the help you need to get a better night’s sleep.
The concern is that the collapse of the airway causes a decrease of airflow to the lungs, resulting in a lack of oxygen to the brain and other vital organs. Not only does snoring affect your sleep, but untreated snoring can increase your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke.
If you or someone you know snores they should consult a medical professional trained in snoring and sleep disorders as it could be a sign of a more serious medical condition.
A quick consultation with your Snoring Isn’t Sexy dentist can help determine if it is more than snoring and get you on the path to start feeling better.
Custom dental appliances for sleep apnea are covered by most medical insurance companies and Medicare.