What is a snore?
We’ve all heard a snore before and can definitely pinpoint a snore when we hear it. But what is a snore and why do we do it? Sleep specialist Lynn D’Andrea describes snoring as “the sound produced by vibrating structures of the upper airway, typically during inhalation.” The upper airway includes the nose, nasal passages, paranasal sinuses, the pharynx, and the portion of the larynx above the vocal cords.
The combination of not having hard cartilage in our upper airway and our decreased control of muscle while we sleep, results is vibration while we subconsciously breathe.
Not all snores are equal.
If snoring is just the sound of vibration in the airway, then why doesn’t everyone snore? Or better yet, why do some people snore louder than others?
It’s because people who snore loudly have something obstructing their airway, limiting the flow of air. That blockage causes turbulence and vibrations strong enough to hear.
Snoring can be used as an alert.
In some cases, snoring can be a sign that something is wrong. For example, sleep apnea is a condition that causes snoring to be very audible and grunty. People with sleep apnea endure labored breathing while sleeping. The root of this condition is often related to vascular complications, or problems related to the vessels that carry blood. With sleep apnea, individuals experience gaps in their breathing while they sleep, followed by a gasp for air, which sound like violent snores.
Loud snoring also tends to accompany pregnancy, allergies, congestion, obesity, and aging. Snoring can also signify that a person has enlarged tonsils or bulking throat tissue.
When should you be concerned?
- Pauses in breathing
- Headaches in the morning
- Dry mouth after waking
- Sleepiness during the day
- Gasping or choking while sleeping
- Unexplained moodiness or depression
Most people experience some mild snoring during their lives, especially if they have allergies. If you have regular, recurring nights of snoring, however, there are many health risks and you should seek the advice of a qualified professional.
Snoring does tend to worsen with age, so if snoring has ever posed as a problem, it is likely to get worse as you get older.
Health risks often associated with chronic snoring:
- The strain on the heart. Long term snoring can cause higher blood pressure and can enlarge the heart, which creates serious heart and stroke risks.
- Chronic Headaches. Although not quite as serious as heart issues, headaches can be quite a nuisance and sometimes, very painful.
- Lowered oxygen levels in the blood. This can lead to pulmonary hypertension, high blood pressure that affects your arteries in the lungs.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness. This can lead to trouble concentrating during the day and can interfere with your daily life. It can also put you at higher risk for accidents, such as from falling asleep while driving.