20 Common Questions About Snoring Answered

Science, Solutions

20 Common Questions About Snoring Answered

Snoring is more complicated than you might think. Because snoring is perceived as an embarrassing habit, it is not often talked about. Therefore, many people have questions about their snoring: what it is, why it’s happening and what to do about it. These are a selection of the most common questions people have about their nighttime noises …

What is snoring?

Snoring is the sound of the soft palate and other soft tissue in the upper airway vibrating. This can include the uvula, tonsils, adenoids, nasal turbinates and other surrounding tissue.

These vibrations happen when air can’t move freely through your airway which causes the floppy soft tissue to flap and make noise.

Read the full article: What is Snoring? – An Introduction

Why do I snore?

Snoring is caused by a combination of different factors which vary from person to person. The most common reasons for snoring include:

Is my snoring a problem?

If your snoring is disrupting your sleep or your partner’s sleep, or has a potential to become obstructive sleep apnea, then it is problematic and needs addressing. There is disagreement in the medical world as to whether normal, habitual snoring (non-apnea) is physically harmful.

What can stop me from snoring?

There is no single remedy that works for all snorers. Finding a solution to your snoring requires an understanding of what is causing you to snore. Common snoring remedies include:

My partner snores. What can I do?

To manage a partner’s snoring and get some more sleep, there are approaches to solve the problem, and some others to simply cope.

Solving the problem:

  • Let them know they snore. Snorers often aren’t aware of their snoring problem. Highlighting it as an issue can motivate them to make a change.
  • Share lifestyle solutions. Often, snoring can be remedied with positive diet and lifestyle changes. These are more likely to be successful if done as a couple.
  • Prop. Sleep back-to-back to prevent your partner from rolling onto their back.
  • Observe and understand their snoring triggers. As the non-snorer, you are in the unique position of being able to see and hear the differences that the snorer may be oblivious to.

Coping with the problem:

  • Get a head start to bed.
  • Sleep separately. This is a solution that many couples cite as the saviour of their marriage. Set aside that same time to enjoy each other’s company, before eventually doing the sleeping part in separate rooms.
  • Use earplugs. A simple multipack of foam earplugs will do the trick, but also shop around for ones that are sleep-specific.
  • Get a white noise machine. This doesn’t block the snoring sound, but instead masks it as the snoring frequencies blend in with the frequencies coming from the white noise machine.
  • Change how you react to the snoring. The mindfulness approach is about changing the way you perceive your partner’s snoring. Try to emotionally detach from the snoring sound and instead treat it like your own personal soundscape.

Read the full article: What Can You Do If Your Partner Snores?

What is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?

Apnea simply means “no breathing”. Sleep apnea is a serious condition where your airway repeatedly closes during sleep, depriving you of oxygen until you gasp awake.

The “obstructive” part refers to the fact that airway obstruction is the reason for apnea. Central sleep apnea is a different condition whereby the brain cannot properly regulate normal breathing patterns during sleep.

Read the full article: What Is Sleep Apnea?

If I snore loudly, do I have sleep apnea?

Whilst loud snoring is a key sign of sleep apnea, it does not mean that you definitely have the condition. 95% of people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) snore, but not all snorers have OSA.

Read the full article: Is It Snoring Or Sleep Apnea?

What does AHI mean?

AHI stands for “apnea-hypopnea index” and is a measurement of the severity of sleep apnea. It gives a value for the number of apnea/hypopnea events per hour, which is where breathing fully/partially stops for over 10 seconds.

  • 0-5 events per hour – normal
  • 5-15 events per hour – mild sleep apnea
  • 15-30 events per hour – moderate sleep apnea
  • 30+ events per hour – severe sleep apnea

How can I find out if I have sleep apnea?

Firstly, look out for the key signs and symptoms:

  • Loud snoring with periodic choking/gasping
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches and sore throat in the morning
  • Frequently waking twice or more to urinate
  • Mood changes
  • Dry mouth/chapped lips upon waking
  • Lowered sex drive
  • Acid reflux

Secondly, do some screening tests:

  • STOP-Bang. This questionnaire assesses how many of the key risk factors for sleep apnea you have.
  • Epworth Sleepiness Scale. This is a test to see if you are showing signs of excessive sleepiness by asking your likelihood of falling asleep in certain day-to-day scenarios.

If these point to potential sleep apnea, consult a doctor. You may be referred for a sleep study. Sleep studies are the only way to reliably diagnose and quantify sleep apnea.

What happens in a sleep study?

A sleep study can be done in a specialist sleep clinic or at home. It is an overnight procedure where you are monitored to gain insight into what happens when you sleep.

You are observed with polysomnography (PSG) which simply means “many sleep measurements”. Therefore, you are connected to a variety of monitors to observe different facets of your sleep:

  • Blood oxygen levels – blood oxygen drops during apnea episodes.
  • Brain activity – to detect the micro-arousals that accompany apnea events and assess what stage of sleep you are in.
  • Muscle activity
  • Heart rate
  • Breathing rate and effort – to provide evidence of breathing interruptions.
  • Eye movement – helps to determine what stage of sleep you are in.
  • Sleeping position – gives some insight into what triggers sleep apnea.

Read the full article: What Happens in a Sleep Study?

How can sleep apnea be treated?

The best solution for sleep apnea depends on the severity of the condition.

Mild to moderate cases can often be treated with the same techniques and remedies used to manage primary snoring.

Severe cases – where your AHI is over 30 – are best managed with CPAP.

Im extreme cases where CPAP and other methods have failed, if there is a clear physical obstruction, surgery can also be an option.

Read the full article: Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatment

What is CPAP?

CPAP stands for “continuous positive airway pressure” and is very effective in treating moderate to severe sleep apnea. CPAP does not give you more oxygen, instead, it gives a constant current of normal air that props open you airway to prevent it from collapsing and causing apneas.

The devices consist of a generator connected to a mask via a hose. They come in different shapes and sizes so are suitable for many different people.

I am a back-sleeper. How can I sleep on my side?

There are several ways you can train yourself to sleep on your side:

  • Tennis ball therapy. Tape or sew a tennis ball to the back of your pajamas to make sleeping on your back difficult.
  • Leaning against something to prevent you rolling over.
  • Specialist pillows. Special designs can encourage side sleeping
  • Vibrating training devices. These work like a gentle snore alarm, vibrating when it detects that you are sleeping on your back.

My nose is blocked and making me snore. What is causing it?

Having a blocked nose is one of the main causes of snoring. There can be many reasons for nasal blockage:

Read the full article: Snoring Due to a Blocked Nose

Do nasal sprays work?

Nasal sprays are a popular anti-snoring remedy. It is important to note that they aren’t suitable for all snorers. They will not work if you can already breathe properly through your nose.

There are several different types of nasal spray, each for different causes of nasal-related snoring.

Read the full article: Do Nasal Sprays Work For Snoring?

Is an anti-snoring mouthpiece right for me?

Anti-snoring mouthpieces can be a very effective snoring remedy. These devices work by positioning your lower jaw (your mandible) further forward (or advancing it).

At SnoreLab, we recommend mouthpieces for a number of different snorers:

  • People whose snoring has worsened with age
  • Overweight snorers
  • Back sleepers. This is because sleeping on your back makes your tongue more likely to fall back into your airway and cause an obstruction. Mouthpieces are still suitable for side and front sleepers.
  • Mild-moderate OSA sufferers
  • After drinking alcohol
  • Open-mouthed snorers
  • Snorers with a pronounced overbite

Like most snoring remedies, there are some people who should avoid using anti-snoring mouthpieces:

  • Those who wear dentures or a missing a significant number of teeth
  • People who have dental decay
  • Those who suffer from jaw ache
  • People with chronic nasal blockage
  • Epilepsy sufferers. Mouthpieces can break into small parts due to the strong biting down that can accompany severe seizures.

Read the full article: Buying Guide – Anti-Snoring Mouthpieces

Why do men snore more than women?

Roughly 40% of men snore, whereas only 20% of women snore. Men’s airway anatomy is more prone to snoring. This is due to an increased proportion of soft tissue and a predisposition to gain fat on the neck. Male hormones also enhance airway collapsibility whilst female hormones protect against it.

Read the full article: Do Men Snore More Than Women?

My child snores. Is this normal?

Just like adults, occasional snoring is normal and harmless for children. However, extra attention should be paid if your child snores 4 nights or more per week, and snores frequently through the night.

Look out for the following signs:

  • They snore more than 4 nights per week
  • They snore frequently throughout the night
  • The snoring is noisy
  • You can hear pauses in the child’s breathing
  • They often sleep with an open mouth
  • They have trouble waking up
  • There are behavioural issues and problems at school
  • You are told that they fall asleep at school
  • They are unusually irritable
  • They report having headaches or a sore throat.

Read the full article: Snoring and Sleep Apnea in Children

Is snoring genetic?

Importantly, there is no such thing as a “snoring gene”, but there is some evidence to suggest that snoring has a genetic link. Some features can be inherited from our parents that make us more likely to snore. These include:

  • Small nostrils
  • Receded chin (known as retrognathia)
  • Small jaw (known as micrognathia)
  • Narrow airway
  • Large tongue
  • Large soft palate
  • A propensity for weight gain

Read the full article: Is Snoring Genetic?

Are there different snoring sounds? If so, what do they mean?

Yes. Different types of snoring produce different sounds depending on where the obstructions and vibrations are. We are not yet able to use snoring sound alone to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea, but early studies have found that sleep apnea-related snoring has a higher peak frequency than habitual snoring.

Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea

Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious condition linked to snoring. It is important to know the signs and symptoms.

Snoring is seen by most as benign; it can be disruptive and a bit embarrassing, but is nothing to worry about in terms of your health.

Yes, normal snoring doesn’t really pose a direct health risk to you. However, if left unchecked, snoring can lead to sleep apnea – a serious condition that needs addressing.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition where your breathing repeatedly stops whilst you sleep.

This creates a cycle where breathing stops and you briefly wake up to clear the blockage – a process which can repeat itself hundreds of times throughout the night.

This puts strain on various systems in your body and heightens the risk of many maladies.

It is therefore important to understand what the key signs and symptoms of sleep apnea are. Here, we explore them:

Loud snoring

Loud snoring is one of the biggest signs of sleep apnea.

It is important to note however, that loud snoring is not diagnostic for sleep apnea. Loud snoring does not mean that you definitely have the condition.

95% of people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) snore, but not all snorers have OSA [1].

 

What is the difference between snoring and sleep apnea?

Read

 

Louder snoring suggests that there is more excess soft tissue which is flapping and making excessive noise. This makes the airway more prone to complete blockage – an apnea event.

As well as just the volume of the snores, another crucial sign of OSA is if you have been observed gasping or choking in your sleep. This is the moment where you briefly wake – an emergency process by the brain to kick start breathing again.

Importantly, not every apnea episode will end with a gasp or choke. It can often be silent.

Side note: can SnoreLab detect sleep apnea?

We often get asked if SnoreLab can use recorded snoring to find sleep apnea. It is important to note that SnoreLab is not an automatic sleep apnea detector.

Sleep apnea does often have some very distinctive sounds. Whilst SnoreLab could detect this typical sound profile, apnea events are not actually defined by sound.

An apnea is a period during sleep where breathing stops and is therefore identified by measuring both breathing effort and airflow (or lack thereof). A drop in blood oxygen saturation also helps to confirm. Measuring this requires specialist equipment beyond the reach of a consumer app.

In SnoreLab, you can search your session for risky sounds using Full Night Recording mode to ensure that every sound and event is captured.

Some users have used this feature to discover sounds in their recordings that suggested apnea events. They have then found them useful in subsequent medical consultations. For many people, SnoreLab has helped flag sleep apnea they weren’t aware that they had.

Excessive sleepiness

Sleep apnea sufferers often struggle to stay awake during the day.

People with sleep apnea experience repeated micro-arousals. These are periods where you wake up briefly. The cumulative effect of these awakenings means greatly disrupted sleep and excessive tiredness as a result.

This tiredness manifests with sufferers feeling completely unrested upon waking up. They also struggle to stay awake during the day and can easily fall asleep in a variety of situations where they wouldn’t normally.

A popular screening test for sleep apnea, the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) looks at your level of tiredness. It asks questions about how likely you are to fall asleep in certain day-to-day scenarios, with answers from “never” to “very likely”.

The ESS tries to differentiate normal sleepiness from the excessive sleepiness seen in sleep apnea. We might all get a little sleepy during the day, but excessive sleepiness is where you are barely able to stay awake in a variety of day-to-day situations – not just a warm, dimly lit room with a belly full of lunch!

The science bit – why does sleep apnea make you sleepy?

The tiredness experienced with sleep apnea is simply a result of impaired sleep quantity and quality. Repeated awakenings disrupt both the amount of sleep you get and your pattern of sleep or “sleep architecture”.

Healthy, restorative sleep requires a good spread of the various stages of sleep. Going to sleep is not a simple on/off switch – there are lots of different parts, each with different functions and benefits.

There is some evidence to suggest that people with sleep apnea spend less time in the deeper stages of sleep [2], stages which are useful for physical repair, memory formation and general re-energising.

Difficulty concentrating

A common symptom of poor sleep, those with OSA often have impaired concentration and cognition.

Some sources liken the effects of moderate sleep deprivation to those of mild alcohol intoxication! This can negatively affect your daily functioning and be more serious too.

People with sleep apnea are twelve times more likely to be involved in road traffic accidents. Some countries now make it mandatory to inform the driver registration authorities if you are diagnosed with sleep apnea [3].

Sleep apnea can also affect academic performance. One study assessed the likelihood of medical students to fail their exams based on whether or not they snored. Non-snorers had a failure rate of 13%, whereas 42% of the frequent snorers failed their exams [4].

Headaches and a sore throat in the morning

Sleep apnea sufferers frequently wake up with physical symptoms like a sore throat and a headache.

An apnea episode is usually resolved by a sharp intake of air through the mouth. Repeating this action throughout the night can dry out the throat and cause pain in the morning.

Though the mechanisms aren’t fully understood, it is speculated that the frequent fluctuations in blood pressure seen with apnea episodes can bring on headaches. Typically, these are short-lived headaches felt on both sides of the head and unlike other forms of headache, aren’t accompanied by an aversion to light and sound [5].

Conclusion

Many cases of sleep apnea are undiagnosed. These people feel unrested, have difficulty concentrating and experience physical symptoms too – but they don’t attribute this to their snoring.

Sleep apnea happens when you are in your least receptive state. So despite waking up frequently and gasping for air throughout the night, you’re unlikely to remember it, let alone identify it as a cause for concern.

Therefore, understanding the signs of sleep apnea is important.

Loud snoring, sleepiness, poor concentration, and headaches and sore throat are the most common signs. This is not an exhaustive list – there are other signs that you may not link with sleep apnea.

If you are unsure about sleep apnea, remember to read our other resources on sleep apnea screening and diagnosis, as well as the underappreciated signs of sleep apnea.

Underappreciated Signs of Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea

Underappreciated Signs of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is often undiagnosed, so spotting the signs – including the unusual ones – is important.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition where your breathing periodically stops whilst you sleep.

Loud snoring and excessive sleepiness are key indicators of OSA. There is also a typical personal profile for sleep apnea sufferers: namely being male, overweight and older.

Unfortunately, it’s not always that straightforward.

Here, we highlight some of the lesser-known symptoms which could be signs of sleep apnea …

Frequently waking to urinate

Waking up to urinate twice or more per night could be a sign of sleep apnea.

Medical professionals are increasingly using how often you wake to urinate as an unofficial screening test for sleep apnea. The exact mechanisms of the link are unknown, though there are three proposed reasons.

Firstly, it is thought that the frequent exertions and efforts during an apnea episode increase abdominal pressure, in turn, putting pressure on the bladder [1].

Second, the arousals experienced with sleep apnea can make you more aware of a perfectly normal need to urinate. Most people can sleep for many hours without needing to urinate as sleep does a good job of suppressing the mental urge. Only when we wake do we acknowledge this need.

Lastly, whilst the connection is not fully studied, a hormone released by heart during apnea episodes also influences the kidneys, increasing the need to urinate.

The science bit – what is this hormone?

Atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) is a hormone released in the right atrium (one of the four chambers of the heart) in response to increased blood pressure, low-oxygen events and constriction of blood vessels in the heart – all seen during an apnea episode. It acts to dilate these blood vessels to take pressure off of the heart and other organs. ANP acts systemically, meaning it gets into the bloodstream where it can reach other areas of the body and make changes. ANP therefore also helps to reduce blood pressure by increasing urine output via a number of actions in the kidneys [2].

Mood changes

A lack of good quality sleep can affect your mood in the short term and long term.

Depression, anxiety, short temper, irritability – these are symptoms of sleep deprivation, one of the most damaging aspects of sleep apnea. This mental decline can be both an immediate and long-lasting complication.

Sleep apnea is known to increase the likelihood of many physical conditions (diabetes, stroke, heart failure etc.) but there is also evidence to show that sleep apnea also poses an increased risk of depression, bipolar affective disorder and other mood disorders.

A recent cohort study in Taiwan followed 32,000 people with and without sleep apnea. 1.13% of the non-sleep apnea group were diagnosed with a mood disorder compared to more than double (2.84%) in the sleep apnea group [3].

Dry mouth

Frequently waking with a dry mouth is a potential indicator of sleep apnea.

Another unofficial screening question in medical consultations on sleep apnea, patients are often asked if they wake up with a dry mouth.

In a recent study, 668 patients referred to a sleep clinic and suspected of having sleep apnea were asked how often they experienced waking with a dry mouth. Those with confirmed sleep apnea were twice as likely to have a dry mouth “almost always” compared to those without sleep apnea [4].

“The prevalence of dry mouth upon awakening was twofold higher in patients with OSA (31.4%) than in primary snorers (16.4%, P < 0.001), and increased linearly from 22.4%, to 34.5%, and 40.7% in mild, moderate, and severe OSA respectively (P < 0.001).”

A plausible explanation for this is that sleep apnea sufferers open their mouth more frequently during the apnea episodes, where the characteristic sharp intake of air necessitates a big gulp through the mouth.

This correlation could also be the reverse, whereby people are experiencing sleep apnea because they are already habitual mouth-breathers.

Low sex drive

Obstructive sleep apnea can negatively impact upon the sex lives of both men and women.

Many studies have linked sleep deprivation from OSA with decreased sexual desire in both sexes [5]. Scientists suggest that the effects of sleep disruption on the hormone testosterone is partly to blame [6].

Testosterone – a steroid sex hormone – naturally increases with sleep. The lack of quality sleep seen in OSA reduces testosterone production. Hence, libido in both men and women, and sexual performance in men is negatively affected [7].

A study in 2009 found that 70% of men referred for sleep apnea treatment also had treatment for erectile dysfunction [8].

Acid reflux

There is a significant relationship between acid reflux and sleep apnea [9].

Acid reflux (sometimes referred to as gastro-esophageal reflux disease or GERD for short) is a condition where the acidic contents of the stomach cause irritation when they move back up into the esophagus.

There are competing theories as to whether acid reflux is a result of sleep apnea or vice versa. Nonetheless, it is estimated that more than half (58-62%) of patients with sleep apnea also experience acid reflux disorder, though this is thought to be at least somewhat attributable to obesity.

The exact mechanics of this link are uncertain, but there is some evidence to suggest that the pressure changes in the chest during apnea episodes can produce reflux symptoms.

Despite this uncertainty, treating sleep apnea has positive knock on effects for reflux. The reverse has also been demonstrated whereby drugs for acid reflux reduce apnea episodes [10].

Conclusion

The classic signs of sleep apnea are loud snoring, sleepiness, headaches and sore throat. There are many more symptoms and complications, some minor, and some that are problematic conditions in their own right.

Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed. A lack of understanding and social stigma surrounding snoring are big reasons for this. It is important to be able to spot the lesser-known signs to help you make sense of your symptoms and seek the most appropriate course of treatment.

Remember to keep track of factors in the SnoreLab app, mark your Rest Rating and make notes on any symptoms you experience so you can build up a good picture of your snoring and sleep health.

Snoring and Sleep Apnea in Children

Science, Sleep Apnea

Snoring and Sleep Apnea in Children

Just like adults, almost all children will snore occasionally.

The mechanics of snoring are no different in children. Inhaled air becomes partially obstructed which causes excess soft tissue in the upper airway to flap and make noise.

But how do you know if your child’s snores are normal or not?

Normal snoring vs. sleep apnea

We all snore occasionally, particularly if we are unwell. But 10% of children will snore on most nights. This is not normal and could be a sign of something more serious [1].

1-3% of children even experience obstructive sleep apnea (or OSA for short) [2]. This is where airway blockage leads to breathing pauses – a condition that has health implications beyond sleep.

Side note: what is the difference between snoring and sleep apnea?

Normal snoring (a.k.a. “habitual” snoring or “primary” snoring) does not involve breathing stoppage. This is usually benign. When a child has sleep apnea, their breathing stops for at least 10 seconds, generally followed by a big gasp or choke. Those with OSA often snore loudly, but importantly, not all loud snorers have sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea is problematic in children

Children need lots of healthy sleep for good physical, mental and emotional development. OSA disrupts sleep, therefore sleep deprivation is the biggest concern for children with sleep disordered breathing.

Studies have also linked the sleep fragmentation experienced with sleep apnea to ADHD [3]. Even without an ADHD diagnosis, sleep deprivation can affect children’s behaviour, focus and overall development.

What causes snoring in children?

The various reasons for snoring are the same in children as for adults. Sleeping position, being overweight and allergies can all be implicated in your child’s snoring.

To understand why your child snores, try to explore their triggers:

  • Are they sleeping on their back?
  • Could dust allergies be triggering their snoring? Are there a lot of soft toys in their room that could be collecting dust?
  • Does their snoring happen seasonally? If so, could they be suffering from hay fever? Understand the other signs of this seasonal pollen allergy.
  • Is your child’s face shape responsible? A pronounced overbite (retrognathia) reduces space behind the tongue and is a common anatomical cause of snoring.
  • Is your child overweight?
  • Are they ill? If so, their snoring should be short-lived.

Unlike in adults, the tonsils and adenoids are frequently cited as causes of snoring and sleep apnea. This is because the adenoids are regions of soft tissue that (usually) disappear after puberty. Further, tonsils reach their peak mass between 5-7 years – well before a child’s airway has reached its peak size. These are therefore key obstruction triggers in childhood snoring and sleep apnea.

When is a child’s snoring problematic? The signs to look out for

There are some key signs that can suggest that your child’s snoring is a cause for concern.

5 sleeping flags are:

  1. They snore more than 4 nights per week
  2. They snore frequently throughout the night
  3. The snoring is noisy
  4. You can hear pauses in the child’s breathing
  5. They often sleep with an open mouth.

It can be hard for you to identify these sleeping flags in your child; beyond a certain age, parents don’t usually share a room with their child.

Therefore, it is important to also keep watch for these 5 flags whilst your child is awake:

  1. They have trouble waking up
  2. They are unusually irritable
  3. There are behavioural issues and problems at school
  4. You are told that they fall asleep at school
  5. They report having headaches or a sore throat.

If they are ticking many of these boxes, it is a good idea to seek advice and further investigation from a specialist.

Before a medical consultation, it is recommended that you start a sleep journal. This can help a specialist glean some insight into your child’s snoring. Focus on the 10 sleeping and waking flags above.

The logistics of listening to your child’s entire night of sleep are difficult if they are at the age where you aren’t sharing a room. This is where SnoreLab can be helpful.

Side note: is SnoreLab suitable for children; will my child’s privacy be protected?

Your child’s privacy is not at risk when using SnoreLab. We do not collect audio recordings and therefore cannot share or listen to any audio picked up by the app. We do collect some anonymised, non-audio data on the session – this cannot identify you personally and is nothing more than some numbers on a screen.

Further investigation – do children have sleep studies?

Yes, children have sleep studies too. A sleep study is a way of looking at how your child’s body behaves when they are asleep. This is the reliable way to understand their sleep disordered breathing.

The process is almost identical to adult sleep studies.

On the day of the sleep study, parents are encouraged to help make the process as normal as possible. This means sticking to normal routines, both before and after arriving at the hospital. If an afternoon nap is part of your child’s routine, then don’t deny them it.

To help make the hospital feel as comfortable and homely as possible, bring things from home that help your child to relax and sleep – whether it’s a toy, a blanket, a book or a film to watch before bed.

Your child will be “wired up” before the study starts. This involves attaching an array of monitors which can take up to an hour to set up. The key ones are:

  • Elastic chest bands. These sense the child’s breathing efforts.
  • Pulse/blood oxygen saturation monitor finger/toe clamp
  • Nasal cannula to assess airflow and look for breathing disruptions
  • Electrodes to monitor heart, brain and eye activity are less common in paediatric sleep studies but are still sometimes used.

Importantly, none of these attachments are painful and they should be attached in such a way to avoid any discomfort. Your child should have no problem sleeping with them on.

The technicians attaching these monitors are well-trained in dealing with children and allaying any fears and anxieties they may have. You as a parent can also play your part here too.

Paediatric sleep studies almost always have two beds set up – one for the child and one for the parent. Your presence should help your child relax and get the sleep needed to make the necessary measurements. People say that typically the child sleeps better than the parent!

Similar to adult studies, the session finishes around 6am. Results are analysed by specialists and will be communicated to you at a later date.

What can be done to treat children’s snoring and sleep apnea?

As with anyone’s snoring, what is the “best treatment” depends on the cause. Almost all snoring remedies apart from mouthpieces – if well matched to the cause – are suitable for children.

Surgery is recommended more for children than it is for adults. This is because children’s snoring is more likely to have a clear physical obstruction that can be corrected with surgery – namely by removing the adenoids and tonsils. Indeed, these procedures are performed more than a quarter of a million times per year in the USA alone [4]. It is generally very safe with only minor risks associated.

Such surgical interventions are usually very successful. Some research indicates that children’s stunted mental capabilities, often attributed to the sleep disturbance that accompanies sleep apnea, reverses completely 3 to 10 months after surgical removal of the adenoids [5].

Surgery is not always an option. If a child is diagnosed with OSA which cannot be managed with surgery or other measures, CPAP can also be used. Whilst CPAP can be quite a drastic change for a child to get used to, if presented and handled well by both the medical professionals and the parents, it can be extremely effective [6].

Further, it is speculated that another potential measure is doing nothing! Children develop and grow quickly so certain conditions can resolve themselves. Recent studies have shown that the non-intervention commonly referred to in the medical world as “watchful waiting” saw almost half of sleep apnea cases reversed within 7 months [7].

Conclusion

Snoring has similar causes in both adults and children and can therefore be managed in the same ways.

Occasional snoring is normal and harmless for children. However, extra attention should be paid if your child snores 4 nights or more per week, and snores frequently through the night [1].

Assess your child’s snoring with the following process:

  1. Is it caused by allergies? Does your child have any symptoms such as a runny nose; are there soft toys potentially trapping dust in their room?
  2. What position do they sleep in? See if side-sleeping reduces their snoring. You can also try elevating their head.
  3. Check if they are showing any of the 5 daytime signs of problematic snoring.
  4. If possible, make a sleep journal. Note how often they are snoring and its frequency per night. SnoreLab can help with some objective nighttime measurements.
  5. If these flags raise concerns, seek medical advice.

Human Evolution and Snoring

Science

Human Evolution and Snoring

Snoring can be seen as an unfortunate by-product of human evolution. Specifically, our airway is a victim of speech and upright posture.

The human throat has too many functions to do any of them perfectly, and instead does everything adequately.

This small section of our body needs to be able to breathe, swallow and generate speech, switching between the three processes seamlessly – all whilst supporting a head with a heavy human brain.

There are bound to be conflicts of interest. Snoring is that conflict making itself known.

Here’s why you can (sort of) blame Darwin for your snoring problem …

Problem #1 – Speech

To breathe at optimal efficiency (and not snore) our airway would need to be a long, straight, rigid tube structure.

Unfortunately, this design is not compatible with generating speech which requires almost the exact opposite qualities. To achieve the diverse range of sounds unique to human speech, a flexible tongue and upper airway are required.

Perfect breathing and sophisticated speech are simply incompatible so a compromise is needed.

To vocalise beyond the grunts of our pre-human ancestors, some different facial characteristics are necessary. First, a longer neck to accommodate more sophisticated sound apparatus is required. This means more soft, muscular tissue unsupported by the harder structures of the skull. Such floppy tissue is snoring waiting to happen.

Our tongue works by shaping the sounds generated lower down the throat in the larynx. To do so, it has to sit further back in the mouth compared to other mammals. It therefore rests precariously close to the back of our upper airway and risks causing obstruction if it relaxes too much.

Problem #2 – Upright posture

By standing on two legs we need a precise center of gravity to keep us from toppling over. Evolution has achieved this with changes to hip structure, thigh angle and spinal curvature.

Additionally, our neck needs to be optimally positioned to support the skull and the heavy brain within. Hence, humans’ throats are more centrally located underneath the skull. This is contrary to other mammals, where the throat sits further forward in a nicely spacious neck.

Overall, there is less space to fit more material. These conditions are perfect for partial airway obstruction – the underlying culprit for snoring.

Problem #3 – Creature comforts

Having anatomy primed for snoring isn’t usually enough to condemn us to a lifetime of nocturnal noise. Instead, an obstruction trigger is needed. As humans have become more advanced, living in more comfort, we have introduced many potential obstructions.

The prime example of this is weight. In the developed world, humans now have ready access to food – sometimes too much of it. Excess weight around the neck and chest is one of the biggest causes of snoring.

Other uniquely human vices such as smoking and alcohol consumption set up snoring perfectly.

Why hasn’t natural selection rid us of snoring?

The concept of evolution and natural selection suggests that advantageous characteristics persist, whereas disadvantages disappear over time. This is known as “selection pressure”. Snoring is surely disadvantageous, so why hasn’t evolution gotten rid of it yet?

These days, being preyed upon isn’t something many humans have to worry about. Therefore, snoring and giving away your location in the vulnerable state of sleep is unlikely to see you snuff it at the hands of a hungry predator.

It is arguable that snoring confers an evolutionary disadvantage as it could be an undesirable quality in a mate – simply, snorers are less likely to find a partner and pass on their “snoring genes”.

 

Is snoring genetic?

Have a read of our article

In reality, this notion is clearly flawed. Snoring appears to confer no evolutionary disadvantage whatsoever.

Even if snorers couldn’t find partners, many snorers are late to the party – only snoring in older-age once they have had plenty of opportunity to pass on their “snoring traits”.

Hang on, other mammals snore too

It is true that humans aren’t the only snorers in the animal kingdom. Anything with soft tissue in its airway is prone to snoring – i.e. all mammals.

The internet is awash with cute videos of snoring animals. Further, we often get asked if SnoreLab will detect pets’ snoring.

Snoring amongst wild animals is poorly understood (do you really fancy sneaking up on a pride of lions at night to have a listen?) but it seems that snoring in animals tends to be at least in-part the result of domestication.

The most prevalent non-human snorers are animals where humans have had a hand in their creation – namely dogs bred with features that cause breathing difficulties (e.g. pugs and bulldogs).

Domestic animals also have a higher chance of overeating and don’t face predation like their wild counterparts where snoring could be an evolutionary disadvantage.

Conclusion

So whilst snoring isn’t a uniquely human problem, the features that enable us to speak and walk on two feet have knock-on effects.

Modern humans are not an end-point; we are merely a snapshot in an evolutionary story with much history and an interesting future (which may or may not include snoring). For the time being, snoring seems to be here to stay – that is unless we can help!

5 Easy Habits to Stop Snoring Naturally

Diet & Lifestyle, Solutions

5 Easy Habits to Stop Snoring

Some snoring experts call snoring a habit [1]. Whilst you don’t consciously choose to snore, they argue that your habits in your waking life are creating the snoring habits in your sleep.

Conversely, there are lots of positive habits that are easy to adopt and can massively reduce your snoring. Here are SnoreLab’s top-5 easy lifestyle habits to stop snoring naturally without having to use any specialist, invasive remedies …

1. Eat earlier

Large, late evening meals can make your snoring worse. Therefore, we strongly recommend not eating anything for at least 4 hours before you go to bed. It’s working for lots of SnoreLab users and could very easily work for you too.

“For people who would like to control their snoring, eat your dinner early – at least 4 hours before bedtime. Keep the dinner light and use the app to monitor the difference. You will be amazed!” – user review, Google Play

Having a full belly can exert pressure on your chest and affect your breathing. When your stomach is very full, your diaphragm has less room to expand and contract. This explains the shortness of breath people often feel after a particularly heavy meal.

Reflux is also a common symptom of eating late. The stomach takes several hours to empty properly. Lying down too soon after eating can allow the contents of the stomach to come back up with the help of gravity. As well as impacting the oesophagus, there is growing evidence to show reflux affects the airway which can exacerbate snoring [2].

 

SnoreLab’s 4-hour fast

Read more

2. Do mouth exercises

Exercising the airway muscles every day has shown to help people’s snoring problems.

We recommend slotting this into your daily routines, such as whilst you brush your teeth in the morning and evening.

Weakness in your airway muscles is known to worsen snoring. There is increasing amounts of research to show that exercising these muscles can have positive results for snoring and sleep apnea.

Try these five exercises which are proven to make a difference if performed consistently:

  • Slide the tip of your tongue backwards along your hard palate as far back as it will go.
  • Press your tongue flat against the roof of your mouth and suck it upwards.
  • Force the back of your tongue against the floor of your mouth whilst the tip remains in contact with the lower incisors.
  • Pull your cheek out with your finger, pull your cheek back inwards against the force of your finger using the muscles in your mouth.
  • Elevate your uvula by sounding and holding “aahh”.

 

SnoreLab’s full article on mouth exercises and snoring

Read

3. Short walk before bed

A short, low-intensity walk in the evening can have unexpected benefits for snorers.

Exercise is a great step towards combating snoring, but we aren’t recommending a massive physical effort here – simply moving around can be advantageous.

A recent study by scientists in Australia found that when people are sedentary in the evening, fluid accumulates in the legs. When a person lies down, this fluid can then migrate upwards to the tissue surrounding the airway which can worsen snoring [3]!

4. Shower or bathe

Showering or bathing before bed is great for normal sleep hygiene as it lowers your core temperature which prepares you for restful sleep. Steam can also help to humidify and soothe your airway – particularly helpful if your snoring is linked to nasal breathing difficulties.

5. Sleep on your side

Switching to sleeping on your side is one of the most basic and effective ways to reduce snoring. This is because side-sleeping reduces compression of your airways.

If you often sleep on your back, there are multiple ways to shift yourself into a side-sleeping position:

Free, homemade hacks. The infamous “tennis ball therapy” or clever use of pillows are free ways to coax yourself into a healthier sleeping position. Learn all the hacks with SnoreLab’s guide.

Anti-snoring pillows. There are a number of different pillows designed to help you sleep in a healthier position. Explore the different types with SnoreLab’s full article on anti-snoring pillows.

Vibrating training devices. Positional trainers are devices that attach to your body and vibrate when they detect that you are sleeping on your back. This is the automated equivalent of a nudge in the ribs from a disturbed partner. Check out SnoreLab’s review of the Snooor wearable, a vibrating positional trainer.

Conclusion

Most snorers prefer to address their snoring naturally with lifestyle changes as opposed to using anti-snoring consumer remedies. One change on its own may not cure snoring, but the cumulative effect of multiple positive changes can certainly get you well on your way.

Stop Snoring with these Remedies to Help Nose Breathing

Solutions

Stop Snoring with these Remedies to Help Nose Breathing

Nasal blockage and mouth-breathing are very common causes of snoring.

If you have a blocked nose or persistently breathe through your mouth when you sleep, you might find you are snoring more as a result.

There are two types of mouth-breathing snorers:

  1. Snorers with a blocked nose
  2. Snorers with a clear nose who cannot sleep with their mouth closed

Thankfully, whether you have a blocked nose or simply keep opening your mouth in your sleep, there are multiple remedies that can help you.

 

Solutions for snorers with a blocked nose

There are lots of causes of a blocked nose. Allergies, colds, pollution, hormones and even the weather can give you a stuffy nose and make you snore as a result.

Thankfully, there are several ways to treat your blocked nose.

Nasal spray

Medicated nasal sprays work by reducing inflammation or constricting the blood vessels in your nose to create more space. There are several different types, some recommend for regular use, whereas others should only be used occasionally. In all cases remember to read the instructions.

Saline nasal sprays are non-medicated. Instead, they are a mixture of water and salt which moisturise your nasal passages to soothe inflammation and break down excess mucus.

To learn more about the different types of nasal spray and what is best for you, check out SnoreLab’s guide to nasal sprays for snoring.

Nasal dilator

Nasal dilators mechanically open your nasal passages. Internal dilators prop open your nostrils whereas external strips use a springboard action to pull open your nasal valves.

These have the advantage of being non-medicated and demonstrating benefits instantly. Each type has its relative merits so for more information about whether they are suitable for you, read our summary of nasal strips and dilators for snoring.

Neti pot

Neti pots are devices used to flush out your nasal passages. Often resembling a small teapot, you use these to pour salt water through your nasal cavity.

This undervalued snoring remedy reduces nasal congestion by:

  • Soothing inflamed tissue. Reducing inflammation widens the nasal passages.
  • Flushing out allergens and other potential irritants.
  • Breaking down and clears excess mucus.

Neti pots are made of different materials and need to be used and cleaned properly. Be sure to read our guide to buying and using neti pots.

Air purifier

Air purifiers can help snoring triggered by allergies and pollution.

These use internal fans to pull in the air and the harmful particles it contains. Once drawn inside the device, the particles are either trapped in a filter or are treated to stick to surfaces as opposed to floating around in the air.

There are many shapes, sizes and features, so check out our full article on air purifiers for snoring to get the best one for you.

Side note: Which of these remedies is most effective depends on the cause, so be sure to read our guide: “Snoring due to a blocked nose” to understand your snoring and the most appropriate solutions.

Solutions for mouth-breathing snorers

If you can breathe clearly through your nose, but frequently wake up with a dry mouth and a sore throat (and usually, some drool on the pillow!), it is likely that you sleep with an open mouth.

There are a number of different remedies to help you make the healthier, quieter switch to nasal breathing.

Mouth tape

Mouth taping holds your mouth closed to promote nasal breathing.

We recommend using specialist, medical-grade mouth tapes specifically designed for use on skin. This means they are safe to use and easy to remove.

A market leader in mouth taping is SomniFix mouth strips, as seen on ABC’s Shark Tank! SomniFix strips are hypoallergenic, can be painlessly removed without leaving a sticky residue, and have a small mesh vent to allow limited mouth breathing if necessary.

Mouth shield

Shields fit behind your lips but in front of your teeth to prevent mouth breathing. Products such as the SnoreLab recommended Somnipax Shield can also be custom moulded and have small holes to allow a little mouth breathing if necessary.

Chin strap

Chin straps are another effective, if a little cumbersome, way to keep your mouth closed at night. You usually wear these under your chin and around the top of your head.

Mouthpiece

Mouthpieces can be particularly effective if your snoring is has multiple causes. If mouth breathing plays a role but isn’t the sole cause, mouthpieces not only promote healthier nasal breathing but also bring jaw forward to tighten the slack airway tissue responsible for snoring.

There are many anti-snoring mouthpieces available. To understand how they work, the different types and what might be most suitable for you read SnoreLab’s overview of anti-snoring mouthpieces.

Tongue retainer

Similar to other anti-snoring mouthpieces, tongue retainers effectively block the mouth breathing route. In addition to this, they also work by holding your tongue forward to prevent it blocking your airway. We recommend the Good Morning Snore Solution for open mouth snorers whose tongues block their airway.

The science bit – mouth breathing vs. nasal breathing

Mouth breathing can cause snoring

You may notice that when you have a cold, you snore more. This is because with a nose full of nasties, you need to switch to mouth breathing.

Sleeping with an open mouth makes snoring more likely. This is due to several reasons:

Your airway is narrowed. An open mouth causes your throat to compress as your tongue falls further back into your airway and the open space behind your tongue and soft palate is reduced.

Inhaled air is turbulent. Directly inhaled air vibrates the soft tissues at the back of your mouth

Your airway dries out. This is because mouth breathing doesn’t humidify incoming air like nasal breathing does.

You are more susceptible to breathing in harmful things. Unlike nasal breathing, mouth breathing doesn’t trap allergens and bugs which can in turn worsen your snoring.

Why should you breathe through your nose?

Nasal breathing not only lowers your snoring risk but has other health benefits too:

Snoring reduction. Nasal breathing warms and humidifies incoming air, helping to prevent your airways drying out. It also channels air over your snoring noise-makers in a less turbulent way than mouth breathing does.

More comfortable sleep. By treating the air, your nose prevents the frequent awakenings you may experience from having a dry mouth.

Better filtration. The mucus and many folds within your nasal cavities do a great job of trapping potentially harmful invaders such as allergens and viruses/bacteria. These, in addition to making you feel terrible, can worsen your snoring.

Proper ventilation. Nasal breathing reduces the chance of hyperventilation – over-breathing with frequent, shallow breaths. Proper ventilation leads to optimum oxygen/carbon dioxide balance, allowing for improved blood oxygen saturation [1].

Enhanced nitric oxide inhalation. Nitric oxide (NO) has often been termed “the mighty molecule” [2]. Produced in the nose and sinuses, nasal breathing helps push this molecule into the lungs where it can exert its benefits. Here, it expands your blood vessels to reduce blood pressure and the associated risks [3].

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