“Snoring” occurs as a result of greater-than-normal vibrations in the uvula and soft palate while sleeping, due to these muscle sagging and causing an obstruction in the airways. When this happens, we are unable to take air into our airways and lungs normally, which means that any air passing the uvula and soft palate results in vibrations that lead to the sound we hear when someone snores.
Generally, people who snore will have a narrow space behind the uvula which has been present since birth. However, some factors that occur throughout our lives can also play a part, including excess weight leading to the throat having more tissue than normal or conditions affecting the central nervous system which cause a weakening in the throat muscles.
Snoring can, in fact, be much more dangerous than you might imagine. Most people tend to view snoring as a trivial matter, while others actually believe that it shows the person is sleeping well. However, medical evidence has proven that snoring is a sign of an abnormality affecting the body which disturbs the sleep of the sufferer.
Snoring can affect anyone of any age or gender, with severe and continuous snoring having the potential to cause a number significant health conditions, such as high blood pressure, strokes, myocardial infarctions, partial or full paralysis, a deterioration in sexual performance and even death. Although snoring does not directly impact our health, it could create numerous other issues, for instance, impacting our love life, our social life, making us feel ashamed or causing a loss of face.
Snoring can be categorized into the following two types:
Normal snoring refers to snoring that only results in a loud noise which can potentially annoy our partner or those sleeping nearby. This type of snoring may impact our love life and cause us to feel ashamed. It makes people not want to sleep in the same room for fear of causing inconvenience.
Snoring that results from sleep apnea occurs due to a narrowing in the airways as we sleep, meaning that snoring happens constantly, even when sleeping lightly. However, during deep sleep, an obstruction forms in the airways and leads to a period where snoring ceases for a moment, which is a signal that obstructive sleep apnea is in effect. Such occurrences may sound similar to choking as the person gasps for air, and this can lead to dangerously low levels of oxygen in the blood, which then affects the function of various organs, including the heart, lungs and brain.
The body responds to this condition by stimulating the brain or waking us up, leading to a disturbed sleep pattern. The person is continuously awoken by the body’s automatic attempt to catch its breath. Others may notice the sleeping person jolt awake, making a sound similar to someone choking on their own saliva or producing sounds like they are struggling to catch their breath. All of these responses are the body’s attempts to take on more oxygen.
After a short while, the brain will once again fall asleep, resulting in the process starting all over again, with the cycle repeating itself every night. Many people will want to know why it is they keep waking up throughout the night but cannot remember what it is that caused them to wake. This waking up is due to the body trying to get oxygen back into the lungs for a short moment, meaning that the more someone suffers from sleep apnea throughout the night, the greater the chances of feeling sleepy or exhausted throughout the next day.
People who suffer from sleep apnea are often unable to recognize their own condition, so those around them become hugely important as they are more able to identify its symptoms, such as waking suddenly or sounding like they’re choking on liquid or to check if the person is breathing heavily while asleep. Alternatively, people suspected of suffering from the condition may consider whether they felt like they got a good night’s sleep, whether they feel fresh in the mornings despite getting a sufficient number of hours’ sleep or whether they seem to always wake up with a headache and symptoms of indigestion.
We are able to carry out a self-analysis of how sleepy we feel by undergoing a sleepiness test, known as the Epworth sleepiness scale.
For more information or to make an appointment, please contact Neurology Center, 4th Floor, Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital, or firstname.lastname@example.org
M.D., Faculty of Medicine Prince of Songkla University, 1987