As far as snoring is concerned, the perpetrator is blissfully unaware and whoever sleeps nearby suffers. Yet snoring raises risks for significant disease, so in reality the one who snores suffers as well.
As we breathe, air moves in and out of our mouths, trachea and lungs. Normally this flow is smooth or laminar. However, if there is narrowing, irregularities or slow flow of air turbulent flow results. And turbulence – at least for the area about the throat- means snoring.
If there are abnormally large structures in the throat such as tonsils, this can lead to snoring. Fatty deposits in the tissues around the throat, seen in obese individuals, can do the same. In fact, almost anything which causes swelling or narrowing in this area can result in snoring. Being medical professionals we like to pick rather obscure and difficult to remember names to identify diseases and as such these conditions are called obstructive sleep apnea. Apnea means that you stop breathing and believe or not that is exactly what happens.
There are many other causes of snoring including sedatives, strokes and brain injuries, but the bottom line is that snoring is often a sign of sleep apnea. This elevates the blood pressure, increases the risks for heart attack and even stroke!
Treatment depends on the cause and severity of the condition. Sometimes, it is as simple as using a different pillow, elevating the head of the bed a bit or putting a plastic dilator in your nose. For those with large tonsils, a tonsillectomy will usually fix the problem. Others might require more invasive surgery to, if you will scoop and smooth out the irregularities in the mouth and larynx. There are machines which essentially pump a little air into your mouth at the end of a breath in order to keep the airway a little more open. These are called CPAP machines (or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure-my God who thought up these names?!)
If you or a loved one snores, suffers from insomnia or moves around a lot at night, a sleep specialist or ENT physician should be consulted. And guess what? After the snoring is fixed, you and your partner both might finally sleep soundly!