The occasional episode of snoring is not unusual for most people. For some, it can indicate a potentially dangerous medical problem. As a board-certified sleep medicine specialist, Meena Mehta, MD in Concord, Massachusetts works with those who experience chronic snoring to find the underlying cause, and manage it with medical devices and lifestyle changes.
Snoring is that deep-throated growling or snorting sound you can make when you are sleeping. The sound can range from something barely heard to a noise that reverberates from room to room. The exact cause of snoring is a partially obstructed airway, which is why you should never ignore chronic snoring issues.
That's a complicated question. The noise itself occurs when the throat relaxes to the point that it vibrates with every breath. When a person drifts off to sleep, the muscles in the roof of the mouth, tongue, and throat relax. If that tissue relaxes enough it partially blocks the airway, causing the snoring sound. The more the airway narrows, the harder it is to pull in air and exhale it. That extra force makes the snoring louder.
Many factors can lead to snoring. It may be directly related to the anatomy of your mouth, making it a genetic or congenital problem. You may notice the cause is your allergies or an acute illness. For instance, the excess mucus or throat irritation from the common cold will narrow the airway. If you have excess weight, this can create extra tissue at the back of the throat, which makes snoring more likely to develop.
Anyone can have the occasional bout of snoring. Certain risk factors increase the chances of snoring, like:
It's important if you do snore regularly – whether you fall into a risk category or not – to see a specialist like Dr. Mehta. Some complications might develop:
That depends on the underlying cause, but Dr. Mehta along with nurse practitioner Li Chin Sun will give you a complete evaluation first to make the determination. Your treatment plan could include an oral appliance, or CPAP machine, lifestyle change suggestions like losing weight, learning to sleep on your side, and raising the head of the bed. For some patients, surgery might be necessary to correct the problem.