Snoring is extremely common.
When it’s occasional, it’s usually no big deal and more of an inconvenience than anything.
But chronic snoring can be seriously annoying and – even worse – can be a sign of serious health problems.
To understand what causes snoring, we first have to understand where the sound comes from. The distinctive, loud hum of snoring comes from vibration; specifically, loose tissue in your throat vibrating. When these tissues are too relaxed, air moving into your throat is partially obstructed, causing them to vibrate rapidly and produce the distinctive sound.
With that out of the way, why do those tissues relax?
- Bad luck: some people have a low, thick soft palate or elongated uvulas regardless of their habits.
- Alcohol consumption. Alcohol relaxes throat muscles. It can also cause dehydration, which can enlarge your uvula (uvulitis.)
- Sleep deprivation. Your muscles relax more if you don’t get enough sleep. For frequent snorers, this creates an unfortunate cycle.
- Sleeping position. When you sleep on your back, gravity can close your airway ever so slightly.
Airway obstructions can also be caused by congestion and excessive mucus. Often this is due to illness, but certain foods like milk or hot spices can also stimulate mucus production.
On its own, snoring doesn’t have any guaranteed side effects. But if it is severe enough to cause sleep apnea, the health consequences can be quite serious:
- Heart problems: over time, sleep apnea raises blood pressure, increasing your risk of stroke and heart attacks.
- Memory loss: because it deprives the brain of oxygen, sleep apnea can cause memory loss.
- Sleep deprivation: with less time spent in REM sleep, you are more tired during the day and more likely to get in car accidents, lose focus, and have less energy.
But the effects of snoring aren’t merely physical. If you have a partner (or share a bedroom, as many college students do), snoring can also interfere with their sleep, too. Like you, they may wake up cranky, irritable, and harboring resentment. There’s also the issue of embarrassment for some people, especially those who snore very loudly.
There are several treatments for snoring, but the easiest is to get an oral appliance! Oral appliances are dental mouthpieces that adjust the position of your soft palate, jawline, and tongue to help keep your airway open. These devices are custom fitted to your mouth and require no surgery!