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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What causes snoring?

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    The Sleep Health Foundation is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of ‘valuing sleep’ as part of a healthy lifestyle alongside regular exercise, a … View Profile

    What causes snoring?
    Snoring is caused by vibrations of the floppy structures in the throat during sleep. The throat narrows during sleep, causing more rapid airflow, vibration of the tissues, air turbulence, and sound waves.  Typical snoring is produced by vibration in the floppy part of the roof of the mouth called the soft palate. Quinn et al viewed the throat during sleep and snoring was caused by fluttering only in the soft palate, in 70% of subjects.  In 20% of individuals, noise was also generated at other sites, with 10% occurring in the supraglottic region (above the voice-box), 8% in the tonsillar region and 2% also at the base of the tongue.  Noise was produced only from the base of the tongue in 8% and only from the epiglottis in 2% of cases. Noise produced from outside the soft palate
    How to prevent snoring:
    To prevent snoring we need to minimise narrowing of the throat during sleep.  Simple strategies may initially be beneficial, such as sleeping on the side or front. Weight loss can help in individuals who are overweight, as this reduces the narrowing in the throat.  Reducing the amount of alcohol consumed can also reduce snoring. There are many other methods to prevent or treat snoring, including all of the treatments for sleep apnoea.  If individuals have frequent loud snoring then sleep apnoea is often present ; in such circumstances, constant positive airway pressure therapy or mandibular advancement splints can improve the sleep apnoea and snoring.  Constant positive airway pressure therapy involves blowing air into the nose during sleep and is the most effective treatment when individuals snore loudly and have significant sleep apnoea. Recently, constant positive airway pressure therapy has become much quieter than in the past and partners are often pleased with the results of this treatment. Mandibular advancement splints are special mouthguards that hold the jaw forward during sleep and they are usually more effective for snoring when patients sleep on their sides. Some individuals derive benefit from surgical options, however, surgery, can cause several side effects and any benefits may not be long lasting.  Provent therapy (nasal band-aids with a minuscule one-way valve), can be useful for snorers going on holidays as they are small and portable, however, long-term they can be expensive. Tongue retaining devices are small “dummy-like” silicone covers for the tongue that keep the tongue forward, reducing snoring, however, they are only well tolerated by a relative minority of individuals.
    Observation of the mechanism of snoring using sleep nasendoscopy. Clin Otolaryngol Allied Sci. 1995 Aug;20(4):360-4. Quinn SJ, Daly N, Ellis PD.
    The acoustics of snoring. Sleep Med Rev. 2010 Apr;14(2):131-44. Epub 2009 Aug 8. Pevernagie D, Aarts RM, De Meyer M.
    For more information on Snoring click here.

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