Snoring is common, around half of people snore at some point in their lives1. For most people, snoring is one of those annoying habits we can’t help, but it can be disruptive to our everyday lives, and in some cases, lead to more serious health conditions. We spoke to Jack Bowker, a dentist at Bupa Dental Care Deysbrook, to find out exactly what causes snoring and how a dentist can help alleviate the problem.
1. So, what actually causes snoring?
Snoring is caused by a turbulent airflow, which causes the tissues at the back of the throat to vibrate. When you sleep, particularly on your back, the muscles relax and the jaw falls back. This causes a partial closure of the airway when you snore, or even a complete closure if you suffer with a condition called obstructive sleep apnoea.
When this happens, air has to be forced between the tongue and the back of the throat. This makes the throat vibrate loudly, which we call snoring.
There are also certain risk factors that might contribute to your snoring – such as alcohol intake (particularly before bed), your BMI and the size of your neck.
2. How can you stop snoring?
This all depends on the root cause of your snoring. However, there are some key things which can help. Firstly, don’t drink alcohol late at night. Alcohol relaxes your muscles, making your airway more likely to close. You might also snore louder if you’ve been drinking because your throat is dry, as alcohol makes you dehydrated.
Leading an active and healthy lifestyle and maintaining an ideal weight can also reduce pressure on your airway. Anyone with a neck size of over 17 inches and a BMI of above 30 is at high risk of snoring.
If you’re a smoker, try to give up. Smoking irritates your throat and nasal passage, which can cause swelling. If your nasal passage becomes congested, it makes it difficult for you to breathe.
3. Is snoring bad for you?
Occasionally, snoring isn’t usually anything to worry about health-wise. However, research shows that regular snorers are at increased risk from diseases such as hypertension2, also known as high blood pressure.
Snoring can also disrupt your sleep, which leaves you feeling more tired throughout the day. This could decrease your productivity at work or mean you have less energy to do other activities such as exercising or socialising. It can also put a strain on your personal relationships by keeping your partner awake at night.
What’s more, simple snoring can develop into obstructive sleep apnoea, which is a much more serious condition that can actually shorten your life expectancy.