What is snoring?
Snoring, like all other sounds, is caused by vibrations that cause particles in the air to form sound waves. For example, when we speak, our vocal cords vibrate to form our voice. When our stomach growls (borborygmus), our stomach and intestines vibrate as air and food move through them.
While we are asleep, turbulent airflow can cause the tissues of the palate (roof of the mouth) and throat to vibrate, giving rise to snoring. Essentially, snoring is a sound resulting from turbulent airflow that causes tissues to vibrate during sleep.
What causes snoring?
While we are breathing, air flows in and out in a steady stream from our nose or mouth to our lungs. There are relatively few sounds when we are sitting and breathing quietly. When weexercise
, the air moves more quickly and produces some sounds as we breathe. This happens because air is moving in and out of the nose and mouth more quickly and this results in more turbulence to the airflow and some vibration of the tissues in the nose and mouth.
When we are asleep, the area at the back of the throat sometimes narrows as the muscles relax, and even close off temporarily. The same amount of air passing through this smaller opening can cause the tissues surrounding the opening to vibrate, which in turn can cause the sounds of snoring. Different people who snore have different reasons for the narrowing. The narrowing can be in the nose, mouth, or throat. Palatal snoring is often worse when an individual breathes through his or her mouth or has nasal obstruction.
What are the treatments for snoring?
The goals for the treatment of surgery may be difficult to determine. The problem of snoring usually is a problem for the bed partner or roommate. Therefore, successful treatment should also include the goal of achieving a successful night\'s sleep for the bed partner or roommate. This makes treatment of snoring a difficult challenge. For example, someone may have a successful treatment if his or her snoring decreases from a jackhammer level to that of a passing truck. If their bed partner is happy, then the snoring problem is "cured." However, another person whose snoring decreases from a mild sound to the level of heavy breathing may still have an unhappy bed partner.
Most procedures to treat snoring are focused on reducing the flutter or movement of the soft palate (roof of the mouth). This addresses palatal flutter snoring. If the snoring originates from behind the tongue or from the lateral walls of the throat, palatal procedures will be less effective.
It is wise to look at the "success" reports for various treatments with a critical eye. If the number of nights that a bed partner has to leave the room decreases from seven nights per week to one night per week, is that success? Some would say that it is. However, the bed partner (or snorer) still has to leave the room one night per week. It is important to know what the expectations for a "cure" are before considering any treatments.