4 Possible Medical Causes of Snoring in Adults

May 7th 2016

Depending on the underlying cause, you can often control snoring with nasal medications, side sleeping and weight loss. However, sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that you must treat with a CPAP machine or medications to prevent your breath from stopping completely. If you struggle with snoring that is affecting your sleep, consulting with a physician can help to determine the underlying cause and lead to treatment of your symptoms.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a medical condition in which breathing becomes severely shallow or stops completely for brief periods during sleep. The condition occurs when the throat tissues fall over the airway, causing complete or partial blockages. When breathing slows or stops, the body naturally reacts by snoring, jerking or gasping. Individuals with sleep apnea may also wake up with dry mouths or feel very tired during waking hours.

Sleep apnea tends to run in families and often affects people who are overweight. Depending on the underlying cause, treatments for sleep apnea include sinus medications, CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines that prevent the throat tissues from collapsing, weight loss and surgery.

Nasal Allergies

Nasal allergies that flare up during rest can cause excess congestion in the sinuses and hinder nasal breathing. Excess congestion can lead to snoring, coughing and post-nasal drip. You can treat nasal allergies with nasal sprays, decongestant medications and antihistamine medications. Individuals with deviated septums are also prone to snoring, as the position of the septum can lead to nasal congestion, even if the person doesn't have nasal allergies.

Obesity

Obese people tend to have thickened throat tissues that can easily obstruct the airways during rest, causing snoring and increasing the risk of sleep apnea. Weight loss and sleeping with the head slightly elevated can help minimize snoring caused by obesity. Genetic factors and pregnancy can also cause thickened throat tissues that lead to snoring.

Alcohol

Excessive consumption of alcohol can over-relax the throat tissues, which in turn can cause partial airway obstructions and snoring. Alcohol consumption also hinders the body's natural defense mechanism when the airway becomes blocked, increasing the risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea.

Conclusion

Snoring is an involuntary response that occurs when breathing becomes hindered during sleep, resulting in a raspy, snorting sound. When an individual falls asleep, the muscles of the tongue and throat relax. In certain people, these muscles relax to a point that the airway is obstructed, creating a vibrating, snoring noise. While mild snoring is not considered dangerous, heavy snoring can be a sign of an underlying medical condition that might need treatment.

Sources

WebMD.com "Understanding obstructive sleep apnea" http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/understanding-obstructive-sleep-apnea-syndrome
SleepEducation.com "Snoring
MayoClinic.org "Snoring" http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/snoring/basics/definition/con-20031874
SleepFoundation.org "Snoring and sleep" http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/other-sleep-disorders/snoring
MayoClinic.org "Snoring: Causes" http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/snoring/basics/causes/con-20031874

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