Snoring is a common problem, which affects 60% of men and 40% of women over the age of 40. The sound of snoring in some people has been measured at 90 decibels – a loudness that would require earplugs in the industrial workplace. This has affected the quality of sleep of many a bed partner causing them to seek refuge in a separate room. Benign snoring is non-obstructive, and is in most cases, the uvula fluttering in response to rapid airflow, like a flag flapping in a stiff wind.
Obstructive snoring results from a partial airway closure and/or a narrow airway. According to Bernoulli’s Principle, A decrease in the size of the lumen causes an increase in velocity of air, resulting in a decrease in pressure, sucking in the compliant airway walls and facilitating obstruction. So when you fall asleep your muscles relax, including those that control the tongue and soft tissues in your throat which leads to your tongue dropping back into your throat and the sagging of the soft tissues in the palate and throat. Nasal obstructions can also cause turbulent airflow which leads to further turbulence in the airflow reaching the back of the throat and worsening the obstruction. Incoming air then makes the tissue at the rear roof of the mouth (the soft palate), the flap of skin hanging from the palate (uvula) and the throat vibrate – a sound we know as snoring.
The more obstructions, the more turbulence which results in more suction on the tonsils, adenoids, fat tissue in the throat, swollen nasal membranes, soft palate and the tongue. This can lead to a serious medical condition called Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
Snoring can be a symptom of a serious medical condition that can be life threatening. Obstructive sleep apnea affects more than 20 million Americans and can lead to hypertension, heart attack, stroke, depression, muscle pain, fibromyalgia, morning headaches, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Most people with mild sleep apnea are aware that they snore and feel overtired or fatigued but are unaware of potentially serious medical problems which may exist.
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