It is estimated that nearly 25% of adults snore regularly, with 45% occasionally making the sleep sounds. Although it is a common problem, it can disrupt sleep patterns and frustrate listeners. Those seeking a better night's sleep — or irritated partners hoping for a miracle — are often curious if habits in their lives can contribute to the issue.
People who smoke or have smoked previously often experience partially blocked airways. It's logical to conclude that this breathing issue may extend to loud or rumbling breathes during sleep. Still, are all smokers snorers? Here's what you need to know about potentially kicking your habit...so that your roommate will stop kicking you.
What is happening in your body when you snore?
You may have noticed or been told that your snoring gets heavier later into the night, or after you've had a few drinks. This is because snoring most commonly occurs when you are in a deep sleep. As you move from a light snooze to nighttime hibernation, your muscles relax. Your mouth is home to many muscles that also go through this process, including:
- Tissues in your throat
- Your soft palate, or the roof of your mouth
- Your tongue
The tissues in your throat can actually relax enough that they partially block your airway. As the air you're breathing works harder to move through the airway, these tissues are forced to vibrate. This disrupts your breathing pattern and creates the familiar snoring sound.
That's why being nudged awake or shifting positions can mitigate snoring — your muscles activate and have a chance to resettle as you ease back into sleep.
How can smoking contribute to snoring?
Smoking can increase your risk of snoring by interfering with your airways. Just as throat muscles can over-relax and create blockages, irritation and swelling from tobacco's harsh smoke can limit the air's path.
Your odds of being a snorer are positively correlated with the amount you smoke. This is to say, the more you smoke, the more likely you are to face regular bouts of snoring. Long-term exposure to smoke, whether through personal use or second hand smoke inhalation, can also lead to other problems that are disruptive to sleep. These include:
- Sleep apnea
- Frequent waking due to nicotine withdrawals
- Nasal congestion
If you've been looking for an additional incentive to quit smoking, the evidence suggests that it will help you achieve more restful and safe sleep.
What are other causes of snoring?
Of course, smoking isn't the sole cause of snoring. If you experience this nighttime disruption, it's possible that much of the cause is rooted in other factors, many of which are treatable.
Many people are born with naturally smaller airways. Obviously, these passages are more easily obstructed than their larger counterparts, leaving some sleepers more prone to snoring. Anatomy can impact your likelihood of snoring in a wide variety of ways, in fact. A deviated septum in the nose can create another barrier for smooth airflow, while nasal polyps are benign growths that can make themselves heard loud and clear.
The risk of smoking can also increase with age and weight. These factors can create weaker muscle tone in the throat or bulkier tissues surrounding your airways.
If you're only an occasional snorer, you can likely attribute your affliction to allergy flare-ups or sinus congestion. Your symptoms may be reduced through the use of traditional cold medications. Sometimes, however, you just have to wait it out.
Although snoring is far from a rare condition, you shouldn't necessarily brush it off as inevitable or harmless.
Can snoring be dangerous?
While most episodes of snoring simply cause a ruckus, some symptoms can point to a larger problem. When coupled with regular smoking, nighttime air blockages become especially dangerous and disruptive to airflow. Extremely loud, irregular breathing during sleep is often a sign that you are suffering from sleep apnea or a related sleep disorder.
These afflictions cause breathing to stop and start throughout the night. Not only does this cause frustrating, frequent wakings, but it can manifest in more serious side effects like:
- High blood pressure
- Daytime exhaustion
- Memory loss/confusion
Given the health risks, it's best to limit your snoring and smoking as much as you can. Fortunately, there are many medical solutions for snoring's causes.
No matter the cause or severity of your snoring, there are options you can pursue to lower your risk of night noises. Imaging tests (like MRIs, x-rays, or CT scans) on in office endoscopy of the nose and throat can take a closer look at your nose, mouth and throat to identify any obstacles to your airway. You can also participate in a sleep study, which uses machines to measure vitals like your heart rate, breathing patterns, and mental activity while you rest.
When a problem is identified, there are many different treatment plans that can be pursued. Some are natural, while others require simple procedures to provide relief. The most common paths toward a snore-free life include:
- Adjusting lifestyle: Limiting your consumption of alcohol near your bedtime may reduce snoring. You can also try to maintain a more regular sleep schedule and pattern.
- Changing sleep habits: Learning to sleep on your side can help keep airways clear while sleeping. Some also benefit from wearing an oral application while the snooze, while holds the tongue in place and prevents blockage.
- Nasal surgery: Surgeons may correct a deviated septum, treat valve collapse, reduce turbinates or perform Balloon Sinuplasty to open up your nasal passages and cure snoring.
- Oral surgery: ENT surgeons can help remove or shrink obstructing tissues in your throat by removing tonsils, lasering the uvula and palate or shrinking the tongue base.
- Oral appliances: Specialized dentists can make oral appliances to address particular types of snoring as well.
- Machine assistance: Appliances like a CPAP machine (continuous positive airway pressure) blows air through your airways as you sleep, preventing them from closing and reducing the risk of more serious sleep disorder like apnea.
If you're losing sleep over your snoring problem, it may be time to seek treatment. The board-certified physicians at C/V ENT Surgical Group can provide in-office and outpatient surgical solutions to foster more restful and healthy sleep. Contact us today to schedule an appointment. We would love to help you identify and eliminate the root cause of your snoring.