Sleep disorders

Snoring reasons

In this article, experts at a sleep medicine center can help you find out what causes snoring and how you can fix the problem. 

Snoring appears to many people to be harmless but annoying. However, the problem of snoring is not only social, but also medical. Snoring reduces a person’s intellectual capabilities, and sometimes it is a symptom of a serious condition – obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS).  

In OSAS, due to impaired airway patency, snoring episodes throughout the night are repeatedly interrupted by respiratory stops, during which the patient’s body experiences oxygen starvation. Patients diagnosed with this syndrome have a 2-6 times increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. They have a significantly higher risk of heart attack and stroke, high blood pressure, decreased potency, severe daytime sleepiness, shortness of breath, heartburn and other unpleasant symptoms are more common. 

Watch a video on how snoring sleep apnea occurs and the dangers of it.

In order to cure snoring, it is important to accurately establish the causes of its occurrence and eliminate them. There may be several such reasons.

Causes of snoring in sleep

Many people think that snoring is an “adult” problem. In fact, both adults and children can snore, and the frequency of male and female snoring is almost the same and is about 30% in the population.

Everyone snores. But why is this happening?

Here are the main causes of snoring:

1. Obesity . It has been proven that an increase in body mass index up to 30 (mild obesity) increases the risk of snoring by 8-12 times. With an increase in body weight, the frequency of not only snoring increases, but also OSAS. People with grade 3 obesity (BMI over 40) do not just snore: they are diagnosed with severe OSAS in 60% of cases (in the population this figure is 5-7%). 

2. Drinking alcohol. Alcohol reduces muscle tone. Under its influence, in a dream, the soft palate and the walls of the pharynx completely relax, the lumen of the airways narrows, and snoring occurs. If a person snored without drinking alcohol, then after taking it, the situation may worsen: respiratory arrest (OSAS) occurs. In addition, when intoxicated, the brain slows down to restore breathing if it is disturbed, which aggravates the situation. The person does not breathe, and his brain does not react to it in any way! It is difficult to overestimate the danger of this situation.   

3. Taking sleeping pills. Most sedatives (primarily phenazepam and other drugs of its group ) have an effect similar to that of alcohol: they relax the muscles, causing snoring, and in patients with OSAS, they aggravate respiratory distress. The second negative aspect of the use of hypnotics is the deterioration of the brain’s response to hypoxia. Result: oxygen starvation of the brain, heart and other organs in patients with OSAS increases.        

4. Smoking . It causes chronic trauma to the respiratory tract due to the toxic effects of the compounds in cigarette smoke. There is a persistent swelling of the airways, which becomes the cause of respiratory failure. During sleep, when the muscles in the pharynx relax, the edematous tissues reduce the airway even more. This leads not only to the development of snoring, but also often to the appearance of OSAS.  

5. Violation of nasal breathing . One in four patients with snoring and OSAS has been diagnosed with allergic rhinitis, a disease in which exposure to allergens leads to a runny nose and nasal congestion. 

Other common causes of snoring include curvature of the nasal septum, nasal polyps, adenoids, and enlargement of the tonsils. In all these cases, there is a mechanical obstruction in the airways on the way to the lungs that interferes with full breathing.

6. Development anomalies . These include congenital narrowness of the nasal passages, an elongated uvula, excess tissue of the soft palate, a small lower jaw (micrognathia). 

7. Aging . This is a natural cause of snoring. With aging, the muscles lose their tone, the soft tissues of the pharynx sag into the airway lumen, blocking it. In a dream, the relaxed walls of the pharynx beat against each other – snoring appears. If, as a result of breathing efforts, the air stream cannot expand the airway enough to inhale or exhale, breathing stops. 

8. Hypothyroidism (deficiency of thyroid hormones). With a reduced function of the thyroid gland, obesity, edema of the mucous membranes of the nasopharynx and oropharynx develop. Decreased muscle tone leads to soft tissue weakening and sagging. All these reasons provoke the occurrence of snoring and OSAS in patients with hypothyroidism.   

Causes of snoring in women

Women snore as much as men. The most common causes of snoring in the fairer sex are:

  • obesity;
  • the abuse of sleeping pills;
  • hormonal changes.

We discussed the first two factors earlier; now we will touch on the issue of hormonal disruption.

Snoring in women during menopause is associated with a decrease in the production of sex hormones in the body. This leads to a decrease in muscle tone and thinning of the mucous membranes. The muscles of the pharynx relax a lot during sleep, the soft tissues that have lost their tone vibrate with the inhaled and exhaled air, creating snoring. With severe breathing disorders, a complication of snoring occurs – obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Hormonal changes are one of the explanations for why menopausal women snore 40% of cases, while in young women this figure is much lower – 25%. 

Snoring during pregnancy can also be triggered by hormonal changes, but other mechanisms cause it: rapid weight gain and swelling of the nasal mucosa (vasomotor rhinitis of pregnancy).

Causes of snoring in men

Snoring in men can be caused by a variety of reasons, but the most important factors are obesity, smoking (every second man smokes and only 15% of women), and alcohol abuse. These causes of heavy snoring cause a significant narrowing of the airways, as a result of which the air stream passes through them with greater difficulty and causes a louder sound.

Causes of snoring in children

Baby snoring is also a common problem. 10-14% of all children aged 2-7 years snore, and 1-2% are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. OSAS in children leads to serious disorders: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder develops, the child becomes aggressive, his school performance deteriorates, and his intellectual and physical development is delayed. What are the causes of snoring in children during sleep? 

The most common causes of snoring are enlarged nasopharyngeal and palatine tonsils. This condition is provoked by frequent respiratory infections. The second most common reason why a child snores is allergic rhinitis. Other factors in the development of snoring and OSAS in children include congenital narrowness of the nasal passages and a small lower jaw.

Snoring in a child’s sleep is not the norm. That is why, if snoring appears, the most correct solution would be to contact a doctor-sleep doctor who will give professional recommendations on how to treat it in order to avoid serious complications.

A few words about how snoring is treated

Today in the arsenal of somnologists there are a variety of ways to treat snoring: 

  • medicines;
  • intraoral devices;
  • positional action;
  • gymnastics for the muscles of the tongue and pharynx (makes the muscles stronger and more elastic); 
  • surgical methods.

An obligatory point in the treatment of every patient is a change in lifestyle: normalization of weight, rejection of bad habits and taking sedatives.

If you snore, it is very important to get a thorough examination to determine what is the cause of your snoring. His treatment with this approach will soon bear fruit: the snoring will stop, and you will feel much better.

If you want to receive qualified help from sleep doctors, we will be glad to see you in the sleep medicine department at the Rehabilitation Clinic in Khamovniki. Our specialists have many years of experience working with patients suffering from snoring and apnea, and our assistance is carried out in the best traditions of the Kremlin medicine. Doctors of the department will select effective treatment that will surely relieve you of snoring, eliminate respiratory arrests during sleep and reduce the health risks associated with these diseases. 

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