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Snoring: What Is The Science Behind It?


The country in Asia found with the most prevalence of snoring is Taiwan, at 59%. 

Snoring is a sound phenomenon produced during sleep. Some associate it with age, gender, health status, and even with culture. This article talks about the basic science behind it.

What Happens During Snoring?

When a person snores, there is vibration in the soft tissues of the upper airway. It can be heard during inhalation or exhalation. This is usually the sound produced when the upper airway is compensating to maintain enough oxygen. When there is oxygen deprivation, there is an increased chance of heart failure and even stroke. That is why the airway exerts effort to keep ventilation open, thus producing a sound.

Is Snoring Normal?

Snoring is not normal, although it is very common. This is experienced by 44% of males and 28% of females between 30-60 years old. A 2013 study reported that Thailand has the lowest prevalence of snoring in Asia (4.6%), and the highest is in Taiwan (59.61%). The participants in Thailand were younger and included more women. While older age and the male gender are found to be risk factors for snoring. 

What Are The Causes of Snoring?

Possible causes:

  1. Narrowing of the airway (due to obesity, nasal congestion, allergic rhinitis, etc.)
  2. Medical conditions such as craniofacial abnormalities, hypothyroidism, acromegaly, adenotonsillar hypertrophy
  3. Problems with pharynx
  4. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
  5. Sleep disorders

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

OSA is a condition highly associated with snoring. This is a sleep disorder characterized by significant upper airway resistance that disrupts or affects sleep. Weight gain is found to be the main factor wherein snoring progress to OSA. These are the clinical features of OSA which can be helpful in ruling it out:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Loud snoring, choking and snorting during sleep
  • Morning headaches
  • Sleep-maintenance insomnia or difficulty staying asleep

If these symptoms are present, your doctor should be consulted immediately. The lack of quality sleep puts the person at risk for other medical conditions as well as accidents (especially vehicular accidents). 

How To Manage Snoring?

Occasional snoring is almost universal. But if it starts to disrupt sleep patterns, management should be considered. This does not only concern the health of the person, but the sleep quality of their bed partner as well. The following treatments can be done, ranging from the most conservative to surgical approaches:

  • Weight loss
  • Lessening tobacco use and alcohol intake
  • Sleeping on the side (with the help of special pillows, posture alarms, and modified nightshirts)
  • Decongestants 
  • Oral appliances to increase upper airway
  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty
  • Palatal implants

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