Why do we snore? Causes, statistics

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If you snore, you have a problem with the free flow of air through your airways. The unpleasant sound to your surroundings is caused by the vibration of soft tissues that relax during sleep. There may be many causes of snoring. We present the most common ones and look at the statistics.

Why do we snore?

Snoring is a sound that occurs during sleep due to vibrations of the flaccid tissues of the upper airways, especially the soft palate, uvula and tongue. It is also the result of muscle relaxation and constriction of the paranasal larynx and the resulting vibration of the throat walls. In addition, snoring is aggravated by nasal obstruction, e.g. during a cold.

Snoring is a common problem that affects people of all ages, including children. Almost half of all adults snore at least occasionally. It is estimated that roughly 20% of women and 40% of men suffer from it. Up to 35% of snorers may have pauses in their breathing during sleep, i.e. they suffer from so-called apnoea. The predisposition to snoring increases with age.

The reason for more frequent snoring in men is the specific anatomical structure of the neck rim. The neck and neck are more muscular in men than in women. The effect of this can be a greater narrowing of the airway in this section. Ladies most often start snoring after menopause, when there is a decrease in estrogen levels, resulting in partial changes in the upper airway. The older we get, the greater the risk of snoring and sleep apnoea. After the age of 60, as many as 60% of men and 40% of women snore.

The most common causes of snoring

Snoring always has its cause. The most common are anatomical abnormalities of the airways or ENT conditions. Factors that increase the likelihood of snoring are:

  • stricture of the throat,
  • elongated and drooping soft palate and uvula,
  • crooked nasal septum,
  • oversized palatine and pharyngeal tonsils,
  • nasal and sinus polyps,
  • oversized nasal conchae,
  • malocclusion, such as a small, receding mandible,
  • blocked nose, e.g. during a cold or allergy.

There are also many environmental factors that can exacerbate snoring:

  • significantly overweight and obese – overweight people have a five times greater risk of snoring compared to non-obese people;
  • sleeping on your back – in this position, the tongue falls down and blocks the airflow, which promotes snoring (the best sleeping position is on your side);
  • alcohol consumption – contributes to a reduction in throat muscle tone, which can result in snoring, which is most intense in the first hours after alcohol consumption;
  • smoking – weakens throat muscles and causes retention of thick secretions, which impedes the free flow of air;
  • use of sleeping pills and sedatives;
  • excessive fatigue;
  • lack of physical activity.

Snoring can also be one of the symptoms that occur during pregnancy. It increases mainly in the third trimester due to the increasing size of the abdomen. Research shows that up to 49% of pregnant women snore. Difficulty in airflow through the airways during sleep can occur in people with an enlarged thyroid gland. To some extent, a predisposition to snoring can also be inherited. Studies have shown that 25-40% of people with obstructive apnoea had similar symptoms in other family members.

Snoring – the first symptom of obstructive apnoea during sleep

Snoring disrupts your sleep and makes it insufficient and ineffective. If you snore regularly and do not feel rested at all after sleeping through the night, these could be the first signs of apnoea. Snoring affects 70-95% of apnoea sufferers and can precede other symptoms of the condition for many years.

According to an American study, moderate to severe obstructive apnoea affects 17% of men and 9% of women aged 30-49 years. In people aged 41-72, the rate of apnoea and shortness of breath was found to be three times higher in men than in women (11.2% in men and 3.4% in women). With age, these differences blur and snoring with apnoea affects both sexes equally.

When snoring is accompanied by apnoea, insufficient oxygenation of the body occurs, so that after waking up, the person snoring may feel headaches, fatigue, sleepiness. It is more difficult to concentrate at work or school. Inefficient sleep affects the ability to drive and can cause dangerous situations on the roads.

Obstructive apnoea rarely occurs without snoring. However, not all snoring means apnoea, so it is a good idea to get tested. Difficulty in breathing during sleep is diagnosed on the basis of an ENT history and a polysomnographic examination. This examination is carried out in hospital conditions using advanced equipment. It allows to assess the quality of sleep, among others: its length or the number of awakenings. However, polysomnography is not convenient for the patient and is carried out only during one night, so its results may be unreliable.

An alternative to polysomnography is the home test, which can be performed with a small Clebre sensor. The test is comfortable because it takes place in your own bed. It can be performed over many nights and the results are recorded in an intuitive app. Long-term follow-up increases the reliability of the results and allows the doctor to select a personalised therapy.


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