What causes snoring?

The muscles in the top of the mouth (soft palate), tongue, and soft tissue in the throat and airway become fully relaxed during the deep stages of sleep. As these structures relax, they lose firmness and may shift position to form a soft obstruction in the upper airway. When the patient inhales and exhales, air flow passes around the tissue obstruction, causing it to vibrate and creating the rattling sound of snoring.

  • Temporary snoring can occur with nasal congestion due to a cold or allergies; congestion causes the throat to swell and can make the upper airway passage narrower.
  • People that snore are often more prone to snoring when they sleep on their back. When the relaxed soft palate, tongue or throat tissue are already nearing the airway during sleep, sheer gravity can cause them to fall backwards, blocking air flow even further.
  • Snoring is more common in men than women. Men have larger airways, and their airway muscles (pharynx) are positioned lower in the neck than women. This increases neck size and expands the amount of airway soft tissue or fat deposits that may compress or obstruct the airway to cause snoring.

Snoring and Breathing

Repeated loud snoring may be a sign of a sleep breathing disorder, such as upper airway resistance syndrome, hypopnea, or obstructive sleep apnea.

If sleep breathing is impaired, this could mean the body is not getting enough rest or is being harmfully affected by reduced blood oxygen levels during sleep.

In addition to chronic, loud snoring, symptoms of sleep breathing disorders can include:

  • Morning headaches
  • Feeling fatigued (even though you just woke up)
  • Excessive daytime drowsiness
  • Inability to concentrate or depression
  • Waking up suddenly while sleeping, gasping for air

If you snore heavily and are experiencing these or other symptoms, please consult with your doctor to rule out a sleep breathing problem. Sleep breathing disorders may be linked to other illnesses, or can lead to serious conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes.

How do I stop Snoring?

Occasional snoring is often manageable by talking with your doctor about your overall health. If you have allergies, sinus problems or enlarged tonsils, treatment of these conditions may alleviate snoring.

Excess body weight and fat in the neck area has a compression effect on the muscles and soft tissue in the upper airway region, increasing the risk of snoring. Losing weight can often make a big difference in reducing or eliminating snoring.

Alcohol and sedatives make the tongue and throat muscles heavily relaxed during sleep, increasing the likelihood of snoring if they obstruct the airway. Limiting use of these substances at bedtime may help reduce snoring.

Oral Appliance Therapy for Snoring

Dentists trained in dental sleep medicine have completed advanced training to provide oral appliance therapy for relief from snoring. The dentist designs a removable oral appliance that looks like an orthodontic retainer to be worn by the patient during sleep to help prevent snoring. The oral appliance fits over the teeth and is adjusted to shift the lower jaw (mandible) slightly forward to keep the airway open during sleep.

Dr. Tull is working with Dalton area physicians and sleep specialists to help patients improve their sleep health and reduce snoring with oral appliance therapy.

During your initial consultation at North Georgia Sleep Solutions, Dr. Tull will review your physician's recommendations and take any necessary x-rays to evaluate the health of your jaw, teeth and facial muscles. After discussing your oral appliance therapy treatment plan with you, he will take impressions of your teeth and work with our dental laboratory to design your oral sleep appliance.

Dr. Tull will continue to see you for follow-up visits to monitor your progress and adjust your sleep appliance as needed to help you enjoy snore-free, restful sleep. 

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