The Science Behind Snoring and Snoring Solutions

by SleepMoment Staff

April 2, 2021

If you occasionally snore, you might get some ribbing from your partner. But otherwise, it’s no big deal. Chronic snoring, on the other hand, can significantly impact a person’s life and relationships. It may also signal a serious health issue. Fortunately, there is hope for snorers and those who love them.

What Is, and What Causes Snoring?

According to the Mayo Clinic, snoring happens when air passes over relaxed soft tissues in the throat. Everyone’s muscles relax when they progress from a light to deep sleep. But if something is blocking the airway, the breath makes that obstruction vibrate, which results in snoring.

The narrower the airway, the louder the snoring will be. The anatomy within your throat plays a role, too. Enlarged tonsils, a low, thick, soft palate, or an elongated uvula (the fleshly, pinky-like structure that hangs in the back of the throat) may narrow the airway.

A deviated septum or bulky throat tissue can cause snoring as well. Nasal congestion from allergies or a cold can also cause inflammation that obstructs the airway.

For some people, the soft tissues of the throat become too relaxed, resulting in snores. This often occurs after drinking alcohol or when you finally fall into a deep sleep after a bout of sleep deprivation.

Weight can also cause snoring if the excess weight on the neck can constrict your airway when you lie down. Sleeping on your back, regardless of weight or anatomy, can restrict airflow too.

Snoring may also be a symptom of sleep apnea. As Johns Hopkins sleep expert Alan Schwartz explains, this type of snoring is usually loud and broken up by pauses in breathing and loud snorts or gasps. Sleep apnea involves frequent interruptions in breathing for 10 seconds or more at a time.

What Does Snoring Say About Your Health?

Snoring may result from a temporary condition, like drinking too strong a nightcap or having a cold. But chronic or loud snoring may indicate a more serious health condition, like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which affects about 22 million Americans, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association.

Because it significantly disrupts sleep, OSA can cause morning headaches. Such sleep disruptions can also leave sufferers sleepy or groggy during the day. The resulting sleep loss can exacerbate stress and depression.
OSA can also increase the risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, and stroke. If you think you might have sleep apnea, see your doctor. It is a highly treatable condition, but it can be dangerous if not given proper attention. Getting a prompt diagnosis reduces your risk of harm.

Snoring Solutions

If you’re wondering how to stop snoring naturally, you’ll be glad to hear there are plenty of sleep remedies that can help you get quieter, better-quality shut-eye. Here are a few options.

Snoring Prevention and Remedies

Weight Loss

Sleep and weight are inextricably linked. When you don’t sleep enough, you’re more likely to seek energy from calories, especially foods high in sugar and fat. And, as mentioned above, extra weight can cause obstructed breathing and snoring.

If you think your weight might be causing your snoring, consider trying to shed excess pounds through diet and exercise. Consider talking to your doctor or a nutritionist for guidance.

Snoring Aids

Nasal Strips

Nasal strips for snoring are a popular solution. These adhesive strips straddle the nose’s bridge and gently pull down the nostrils, enlarging the nasal passage and improving airflow.

Strips may offer temporary relief for some people. However, they don’t address the underlying cause of snoring and may be ineffective for more severe obstructions.

Snoring Device

An anti-snoring device, such as a nasal dilator, air purifier, or chin strap, may also help to an extent. Nasal dilators are essentially more advanced, reusable nasal strips and work the same way. Nasal air purifiers are inserted into the nose to maximize airflow by opening the nasal passages. However, reviews are mixed. Some people find them quite uncomfortable, and they may fall out during the night.

Chin straps appear to work a bit better. They are designed to keep the mouth shut during the night to prevent snores. However, they’re not ideal for people who have difficulty breathing through the nose, and some users might find them uncomfortable.

Snoring Mouth Guard

Snoring mouth guards are designed to keep the jaw and tongue in a forward position. That prevents the soft tissues in the mouth from obstructing your airways. Products can be adjusted for a secure, comfortable fit, and some come with custom-molded teeth impressions.

If you snore because you’re a back sleeper or have overly relaxed soft tissues in the throat, these may be effective.

CPAP Machine

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are devices that include a motor and tubes that channel oxygen through the nose and mouth while the wearer sleeps. This prevents the shortage of oxygen that occurs with obstructive sleep apnea. These machines are only effective for people experiencing OSA.

Snoring Surgery

Pillar Procedure (Palatal Implants)

The pillar procedure can be used to treat snoring or mild sleep apnea. It involves surgically inserting small plastic implants (pillars) into the soft upper palate in the back of your mouth.

The surrounding tissue stiffens as it heals, helping to prevent vibrations during sleep. According to research, people who have small (or removed) tonsils and are a healthy body weight are the ideal candidates.

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)

The soft palate often produces the vibrations that cause snoring. Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty is a more invasive way to address this than the pillar procedure and is typically reserved for more severe cases.

The operation entails removing some of the soft tissues, including the uvula and portions of the throat walls and palate, freeing the airway of obstructions.

Radiofrequency Treatment

Besides the traditional scalpel and stitches, sometimes surgeons can remove soft tissue using radiofrequency (RF). The surgeon uses radio waves to slightly damage the soft palate. When it heals, the resultant scar tissue stiffens the palate, making it less likely to vibrate.

Patients usually require two or three sessions for the desired effect. Surgeons can also perform laser-assisted UPPP surgeries. These procedures may be effective snoring treatments but will not cure obstructive sleep apnea.

Addressing Snoring for Sounder Sleep

If you’re looking for solutions to a snoring problem, keep in mind that snoring is a symptom, not an illness. Your snoring may be a side effect of lifestyle habits, underlying conditions, or various other factors. The most effective way to treat snoring is to identify the cause and establish a treatment plan that’s unique to your needs.