Snoring. We’ve all been there. You’ve just shut your eyes for the night and then you hear a sound like someone just started a lawnmower in your room. Better get the earplugs.
Snoring is all around us. In fact, about 90 million Americans deal with snoring in some capacity, whether you find your spouse sounds like a freight train or you’re the noisy culprit.
But what Causes Snoring?
Snoring is caused by air passing over something disruptive in the mouth or throat, like the tongue, tonsils, and adenoids. This uneven air flow causes vibrations in the uvula and soft palate that then creates that frustrating sound. If you’re experiencing this, something is partially obstructing your airway in some way while you sleep. That means snoring is a throat issue as opposed to a lung issue. Air is being forced through a narrow space, wreaking havoc on your shut-eye.
Many have no idea why they struggle with this annoying problem or how to remedy it. The first step to a better night sleep is to figure out what might be causing your noisy night. There are many different factors that can cause snoring like nasal congestion, age, lifestyle, sleep position, and even sleep apnea. But don’t worry! All hope is not lost. Making a few changes in your routine might just solve the problem.
Nasal congestion is one of the main causes of snoring. It is not uncommon to develop a snoring problem or have an existing one worsen when dealing with a cold. But, factors like allergies, viral infections, sinus infections, and other nasal issues, such as a deviated septum, can all cause snoring. Luckily, there are things you can do to improve it.
For the more allergy prone, your problem could be with your pillow. Even if you consider yourself a skilled housekeeper, dust mites and pet dander can still build up in your pillows causing congestion. Consider changing your pillow cases frequently during the week.
A hot shower right before getting in bed or using a Neti pot can help clear nasal passageways. Consider running a humidifier while you’re sleeping or using nasal strips.
Age and Lifestyle
It’s true. Unfortunately, age plays a part when it comes to snoring; even more so, if snoring has been an issue for you in the past. As you grow older, the muscle tone in your throat changes and can cause your airways to narrow.
This is worsened by factors such as weight gain, which can be aggravated by hormonal shifts that come naturally with age. If you gain weight around your neck, it can squeeze at the diameter of the neck, making it much more likely to narrow your airways and cause snoring.
Though aging is beyond your control, there are some healthy tweaks you can make to help improve your snoring. You may have to keep the wine to a minimum and make sure you’re reaching for water constantly throughout the day. If you’re dehydrated, secretions in your nose and soft palate become thicker, making it harder for air to pass through evenly.
Staying hydrated, getting plenty of sleep, and keeping nasal passages clear can greatly improve the quality of life for those suffering from snoring.
Sometimes snoring issues can be linked back to something as simple as how you sleep. For instance, sleeping on your back can cause your throat and neck tissue to relax more than usual, causing your airway to become restricted.
Learning to sleep on your side might seem like a big adjustment for comfort, but could make all the difference when it comes to snoring.
Ok, I’ve Tried All These Ideas, and I Still Snore…Now What?
Start with your dentist. Your snoring could be alleviated with a simple oral appliance. These appliances, often called “night guards” position the jaw forward to keep the airway open all night, no matter what sleeping position you choose.
Many people who snore often deal with bruxism (aka grinding and clenching of the teeth), because their jaw is trying to position itself to allow more air in. On the other hand, those who naturally clench or grind often snore because of their jaw moving and restricting their airways.
For many people, the night guard they wear for snoring can also act as a layer of protection from grinding and clenching. But for those who just find themselves wearing away their chompers by grinding or clenching, Perfect Smile Tulsa offers a couple of options to protect your pearly whites. A simple ‘bite-splint’ can be custom fitted and made in our office lab while you wait, as well as a multi-layer splint made in an outside dental lab for you to pick up in about 10 days.
If you’re not able to sleep with a night guard in your mouth, there is another, very exciting option; Botulinum toxin (think Botox). Botox?? Yes! A small amount of Botox can be injected in the TMJ (jaw) muscle about every 6-9 months. This type of injection doesn’t affect chewing or talking, it slows down the little muscles that hyper-flex when you clench or grind. Since we just learned that clenching and grinding can lead to snoring, a TMJ injection could help you snooze quieter too. Two birds, one stone, right? Dr. Davis has seen wonderful results in his patients with this treatment! To learn more about BOTOX® injections, click here.
In some cases, snoring can be an indication of a more serious problem like sleep apnea. Getting tested is much easier than it used to be. For many people this is covered by medical insurance and rarely requires a sleep center; some can even be done at home. Ask us about how you can be screened for this condition.
Sleep apnea is often seen in older adults but can occur at any age. The difference between sleep apnea and garden variety snoring is simple, yet serious. As we learned above, snoring is a narrowing of the throat that causes air to unevenly pass through. More dangerously, sleep apnea is a closure of the airway, which causes you to stop breathing, sometimes up to 10 seconds and often many times per hour. Because you’re not able to get enough oxygen, great stress is put on your heart and brain.
So if you’ve tried our recommended solutions but are still grappling with feeling groggy, noticing memory issues, not feeling rested in the mornings, or noticing changes in your general health, you may have sleep apnea and should consult your doctor. Likewise, you may not think you have these symptoms, but your spouse may disagree. Many sleeping companions report that the snorer seems to stop breathing multiple times a night, with the snorer unaware that anything has happened.
Luckily, if you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, there are many options available. Depending on the severity of your apnea, a good place to start may be with an oral appliance. Positioning and stabilizing your jaw in a forward position with one of the snore guards mentioned above may be all that is needed for you to breathe freely.
Whatever you snoring, clenching, grinding or sleep apnea needs may be, Dr. Davis and the staff at Perfect Smile will listen to you, conduct a thorough examination your teeth, soft tissues, jaw, and x-rays to come up with a solution that’s right for you.