Snoring is common, with almost half of all adults snoring at least occasionally1. And research shows that snoring becomes worse as you age – affecting 30% of men and 20% of women under the age of 60, increasing to 60% and 40% over the age of 601.
Snoring isn’t usually a cause for concern, but it can be frustrating to live with. If you snore, you may find it a nuisance, especially if it affects your sleep or wakes those close to you during the night. It can also lead to sleep deprivation, which can affect your mental health, physical wellbeing and your productivity and performance at work.
Although snoring isn’t something you would usually associate with the dentist, it’s something that your local practice may be able to help with.
What causing snoring?
When you’re awake, there are muscles in your nose, mouth and throat that keep your airways open. But when you sleep, these muscles relax, causing your airways to narrow. As air passes through, it can cause the surrounding tissues to vibrate. This results in the sound we call snoring.
While simple snoring is usually nothing to worry about, it can be a sign of a more serious condition known as obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).
What is obstructive sleep apnoea?
Obstructive sleep apnoea causes the airways in your throat to narrow or completely collapse while you sleep. This can even stop you breathing for a short time, usually for around 10 seconds. You may wake up to a choking or gasping sensation and feel out of breath. With sleep apnoea, you often go back to sleep fairly quickly and have no memory of it happening in the morning.
This happens continually throughout the night, sometimes hundreds of times. It can disrupt your sleep pattern and, as a result, you may end up feeling extremely tired the next day. This could affect other areas of your life such as your performance at work or your ability to drive.
In the worst case, OSA can lead to several conditions which affect your heart, including heart failure, arrhythmia, strokes and high blood pressure.
What causes obstructive sleep apnoea?
The condition is most common in people aged between 30 and 60, although you can get it at any age. Similar to snoring, it’s more common in men than women. You’re more likely to develop sleep apnoea if you:
- Are older
- Are overweight. If you excess fat around your neck, it can increase pressure to your airway and narrow it even further
- Have a close relative who suffers from sleep apnoea
- Are a smoker
- Drink lots of alcohol, especially in the evenings
- Use sedatives to help you sleep
- Sleep on your back
- Have medical conditions including an underactive thyroid, Down’s syndrome, acromegaly or other conditions which affect your jaw, nose, throat or tongue