Medical professionals estimate that about 30 million Americans snore on a regular basis. When you fall asleep, your muscle tone decreases and all of the muscles in your body relax – including those in your mouth. This is why the soft palate of your mouth and the uvula (the fleshy piece of tissue that hangs in the back of your throat) vibrate as you inhale and exhale. It is the vibration of these relaxed, floppy muscles in your throat that causes the snoring and gasping sounds you may be experiencing.
The severity of your snoring problem may vary. In most cases, snoring is just a nuisance that disturbs your or your partners sleep. According to medical experts, your snoring typically makes your partner lose up to an hour of sleep every night.
Here are some things you can do that may help reduce your snoring:
- Lose weight
- Quit smoking
- Get treatment for allergies if you have them
- Limit or avoid alcohol use and sedatives
- Sleep on your side instead of on your back (sleeping on your back causes your tongue to roll back in your mouth and can narrow or block the airway passage).
- Talk to your dental professional about getting a snore guard appliance to help with your snoring problem. Snore guards can help by holding your lower jaw in a protruded position that is more conducive to an open airway as you breathe when you sleep.
- Meet with your doctor, if necessary, to discuss other treatment options, such as using a CPAP at night
If your snoring problem is more severe, it may be a sign of the progressive and severe disorder known as sleep apnea. Unlike mild snoring, sleep apnea occurs when your airway is blocked during your sleep, causing you to actually stop breathing for ten seconds or more. In one night, an individual with sleep apnea could experience hundreds of “apneic events” or involuntary breathing pauses. If you have sleep apnea, your partner may hear you snoring loudly, followed by complete silence, and then a snort or choking sound as you resume breathing.
Sleep apnea can be life threatening and can contribute to impaired driving, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart failure. While snoring and sleep apnea are related breathing disorders, not all snorers will develop sleep apnea, and not all sleep apnea patients snore.
If you experience any symptoms related to snoring or sleep apnea, talk to your dental professional. He or she can diagnose your condition or send you to a specialist if necessary.
For further information about snoring, snore guard appliances, or sleep apnea, contact your dentist and schedule an appointment.