- Victoria’s historic coronavirus spike could soon be surpassed
- The internet’s black pill is an evil we all have to swallow
- Is JK Rowling right about cancel culture, or is she just shielding herself from criticism?
- The science behind our selfishness in a pandemic
- Worldwide genome research could change the course of medical history
So you’ve bought the snoring ring, used that throat spray and tried those nose strips but you’re still snoring! Nothing seems to work but there may be some treatments that you haven’t thought of and could be the key to a restful night’s sleep.
Firstly, let’s take a moment to understand what snoring is. Snoring is the sound from vibration of the structures in the airway. It is usually the soft palate and the uvula (that dangly thing at the back of the throat) but there are five different areas that cause the sound. It can be anywhere from the back of the nose right down to your vocal chords. An ENT is the best person to have a look into your nose and down to your throat to see if there are any constrictions or blockages. Swelling, bony growths, polyps or a lack of space can all lead to narrowing of the airway.
There are definitely age-related changes that happen to our bodies that cause us to snore but there are some simple lifestyle changes that can help. Reducing smoking and avoiding alcohol, losing weight and staying off your back will all help. Anything that makes you nasally congested is best avoided as breathing through the nose and keeping the mouth closed at night is essential to limiting the amount of snoring you do.
Sleep Related Breathing Disorders
Sleep is supposed to be restorative, but snoring can actually be a sign that something more sinister is happening. Breathing should be almost silent and rhythmical. If the airway becomes compromised during sleep, the body will try to wake itself. This can be heard as grinding when the jaw is pushed forward to breathe or a gasp as the body finally manages to get some air. Research shows that untreated disorders can cause a range of cardiovascular and metabolic conditions.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the condition that most people hear about. It is at the upper end of the spectrum and is characterised by long pauses in breathing (apneas) throughout the night. Mouth breathing, Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome and Hypopneas are all less severe conditions where airflow is insufficient, turbulent and can cause snoring. Improving airflow can help make sleeping better, with the nice side effect that snoring is less as well.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) masks are the go to treatment when there are apneas during sleep. Bursts of air, force the airway open and allow people to breathe. The masks are not comfortable for everyone and must be worn to be effective. Another problem is that snoring is still possible even with the mask working effectively.
These are made by dentists and designed to push the lower jaw forward during sleep. It is considered a first line treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea but helps open the airway anytime there is a physical restriction. While it makes a breathing easier it is still not 100% effective for snoring.
When there is a physical obstruction and the snoring is severe then surgery may be considered an option. As an invasive treatment it is usually low on the list of options. Deviated septums, enlarged turbinates or growths in the throat are all valid reasons for requiring surgery. Trimming of the uvula, soft palate and other types of radiothermy and coblation will open the throat have low success rates preventing snoring in the long term.
Swallowing and tongue exercises can be very effective at toning the muscles of the airway. Performing these exercises consistently for two months can improve the symptoms of breathing disorders by some fifty percent! This kind of training is done by an orofacial myologist.
This form of therapy is a rejuvenation treatment for the back of the throat. It tightens the uvula and soft palate to reduce vibration and also opens the accessible area at the back of the throat. While effective it must be the uvula and soft palate that are the source of snoring. The airway is only able to open up by thirty percent so this is not ideal for airways that are really closed down. Specialist doctors and dentists are able to perform these treatments.
Science can definitely help to reduce snoring but lifestyle changes are just as important, because almost everyone will snore worse when they have alcohol and sleep on their back. Most often the reality is that a combination of treatments will be required to reduce snoring. Snoring may be disruptive for the sleeping partner but if there is an underlying sleep related breathing disorder, then that has to be treated because of higher mortality rates. So if you’ve tried everything and nothing seems to be working, then seek professional help because it may be a sign that something more is going on.