Snoring – Types and Causes

There are two types of snoring: primary snoring and snoring indicative of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). If your significant other is a snorer, you can conduct a sleep study, which is called a polysomnogram, to determine which type of snoring your significant other is suffering from. Of the two types of snoring, primary snoring, which is also called simple snoring, is the one that you should be concerned about the least. A person will not suffer from any health problems or lose out on any sleep because of primary snoring. You can tell a person is suffering from primary snoring if you can hear loud breathing while that person is sleeping. Primary snoring is uninterrupted and periodic. The noise from the loud breathing can be of any decibel level. Primary snoring results from some type of nasal passage blockage. The other type of snoring is more of a health concern and a doctor should be consulted for treatment recommendations. OSA can occasionally cause a complete blockage of the air passes for as long as 10 seconds and this may result in death due to suffocation. According to the National Institutes of Health, 12 million Americans have OSA and it is as common as diabetes. OSA sufferers can have as many as 20 to 30 involuntary breathing paususes during hour during sleep. These paususes occur because the throat muscles and tongue relax and block the opening of the airway. A person suffering from this type of snoring will have early morning headaches, problems staying awake during the day and low oxygen levels in the blood. If OSA is left untreated, a person can have high blood pressure and increased risk of cardiac arrest, stroke and heart disease. Unfortunately, 90% of OSA sufferers are undiagnosed and untreated.

Snoring occurs because of the vibrations of tissues against each other in the back of the mouth and nose. These tissues obstruct the airway and consist of the soft palate, the throat, the uvula, the tonsils, or the adenoids. Snoring occurs during sleep because deep sleep is what causes the relaxation of the throat muscles. This partially closes the airway. This narrowing of the airway obstructs the air flow, which causes the snoring. A narrower airway will cause louder noise because there will be more friction. There are several other causes of snoring. If you're not in shape, this can lead to poor muscle tone and lax muscles, which can contribute to snoring. Alcohol, sleeping pills, or antihistamines can increase the relaxation of throat and tongue muscles. Excessive fatty tissue in the neck can cause your throat to become smaller. A long soft palate or uvula can narrow the opening of the airway. A stuffy nose from a cold can block your nasal airways and make it harder to pull air through it. This will create a vacuum in your throat and pull together the tissues of the throat. Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke can cause the throat muscles to relax and also creates nasal and lung congestion. Men are more likely to snore than women because they have narrower airways. When you're middle-aged or older, your throat become narrower and the muscle tone in your throat decreases. A deviated septum, which is a deformity of the wall that separates one nostril from the other, can cause obstructed breathing.