Snoring is a problem that affects millions of Americans. Depending on the severity of the problem, snoring can become much more than a nuisance for a bed partner-without treatment. Severe snoring has the potential to lead to serious health hazards, including heart disease. Snoring can be attributed to a wide variety of causes. Understanding these causes is key to determining the most effective treatment for you.
The sound of snoring is caused by the turbulent flow of air, the same process that generates the sound of fast flowing water in the rapids of a stream. The turbulence causes soft tissues in the throat to vibrate and flutter. The underlying cause of snoring may involve a combination of multiple factors, including:
- Excessively long soft palate and uvula.
- Enlarged tissue of the back of the tongue.
- Large tonsils and/or adenoid.
- Excessive relaxation of the muscles of the throat due to alcohol, medications, aging and neurological disorders.
- Increased bulk of the neck (neck size greater than 17 inches in circumference) due to weight gain.
- Nasal obstruction related to deviated septum, enlarged nasal turbinates, nasal polyps or allergic conditions.
- Neurologic conditions that reduce muscle tone.
- Congenital malformations of the throat tissues.
- Previous tongue, throat or neck surgery.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disorders.
- Injuries or wounds to the throat or neck from trauma, surgery or ingestion of caustic poisons.
In most cases there is a significant contribution to snoring from the soft palate tissues of the back of the roof of the mouth.
Who is at Risk?
- Snoring affects at least 75 million Americans.
- Men, smokers and overweight individuals are at greater risk of developing snoring.
- If you are overweight, your throat can be compressed by the pressure from the excess tissue in the neck, leading to turbulent air flow and tissue vibration while breathing.
- People with allergies or sinus problems may also be at greater risk of snoring.
If you are concerned about the effects of snoring on your health or the health of your relationship, consult a snoring doctor to find out which treatments are most suitable for you. Dr. Kimmelman is a leading New York City otolaryngologist who specializes in treating snoring, sleep apnea and smell and taste disorders.