What Happens When We Snore

For as long as there has been sleep, there has been snoring. In fact, ancient texts, Shakespeare and even the holy books of major world religions reference to snoring. Most everyone snores at some point during their lives and an estimated 57% of men and 40% of women snore with some degree of frequency. Culturally, there is a strong tendency to focus on the superficial aspects of snoring instead of the physiology and health implications. Quick-fix snoring products and depictions of snoring in the media minimize snoring to an annoyance and sometimes even a flaw. 

Snoring can be irritating and disruptive to both the snorer and their partner. It shouldn’t be embarrassing, though. While common, it can be an indicator, symptom and even a cause of more serious health problems. It’s time to get curious about snoring and seek to understand what’s going on and if there’s cause for concern. 

Let’s help you get a grasp on what’s going on when you snore. The sleep experts Whitney Sleep break it down below. 

The Science of a Snore

Take a moment to mimic the sound of a snore. You probably felt your nose or throat being somewhat closed and vibrations in your nasal passages or soft palate. Keep that feeling in mind as we break down the basic physiology of snoring. Snoring occurs when the airflow in your mouth, nose or throat is restricted. When the air flow is blocked or partially blocked, it slows the flow of oxygen through your body, causing your inhalation to become more urgent, turbulent and pressured.

When this pressured air is pushed through tightened structures within the airways, it causes vibrations which create the sounds we associate with snoring. There are a number of reasons why airways may become blocked or restricted while sleeping, and snoring can manifest in different areas of your upper respiratory system. This includes the mouth (soft palate, tongue), throat (tonsils, uvula, pharyngeal wall) and nose.

What Causes Airways to Be Blocked?

Blocked airways that lead to snoring can manifest for a number of reasons. Allergies and illness can trigger snoring when congestion leads to blocked nasal passages. Nasal polyps can also cause snoring. Depressant drugs like alcohol and muscle relaxers can cause your tongue and throat muscles to relax too much, creating the conditions for snoring. Likeways, sleep deprivation, sleep position and the type of pillow you use can do the same.

Snoring can also be caused by physiological traits and chronic issues, such as a deviated septum, poor muscle tone in the throat and tongue, elongated soft palate or uvula, and being overweight. Infrequent or situational snoring is quite common; however, snoring can be an indicator of health issues which must be taken seriously. 

When Snoring Is Serious 

Popular culture treats snoring as something irritating, funny or embarrassing. While most people snore at some point during their lives, it’s important not to be flippant about more serious issues that snoring can point to. Loud snoring accompanied by gasping, choking, shallow breathing and gaps in breathing is a symptom. Snoring is a key indicator of sleep apnea. 

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder wherein breathing stops and starts during sleep. Sleep apnea leads to exhaustion, high blood pressure and increased risk for heart disease and other issues. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when physical disruptions to the airways are present, central sleep apnea is caused by a failure in the brain to trigger your breathing muscles, and complex sleep apnea is a combination of the two. If you or a loved one is experiencing loud, frequent snoring, make sure to take it seriously. 

Sleep Easier with Whitney Sleep  

Whitney Sleep provides diagnostic and treatment services covering a wide array of sleep disorders, including snoring and both obstructive and central sleep apnea. We’ll consult with you to learn about what you’re experiencing and its impact on your sleep and waking hours. We will answer any questions or concerns you may have. After an at-home or in-office sleep study, our certified sleep medicine specialists will evaluate your results. Then, the sleep team will devise a treatment plan tailored to your needs. 

We offer a selection of sleep supplies to support safer, more restful sleep for those experiencing sleep apnea, designed with your comfort and ease in mind. If you’re concerned about your or your partner’s snoring, reach out to Whitney Sleep today. To learn more about sleep disorders and our services, visit www.whitneysleepcenter.com.