The Navajo Indians of North America have a saying that goes ‘even the still wind has a voice.’
They might as well have said ‘even sleeping beauties snore.’
It is estimated that about 50% of people snore.
I had a horrifying experience last week when my son flicked open his cellphone and invited me to view a clip of a sleeping man. The man lay peacefully and was just out of this world. But he snored like a grampus, a loud, gurgling and frightening sound. I was about to turn away revolted when I realized that my son had videotaped me while I was asleep.
Of course, I was upset with him. There is a precedent to such behaviour when some kid in the Bible laughed at his sleeping dad and rued ever uttering that gleeful sound.
I, however, immediately called my wife in Zimbabwe and apologized. The woman has courage! She has been going through this every night for decades. Was that really me in that video? And what circumstances make me produce such horrendous sounds as if someone is trying to throttle me?
Snoring is “the vibration of respiratory structures and the resulting sound, due to obstructed air movement during breathing while sleeping.” It is noisy breathing through the mouth and nose during sleep and can occur when you are breathing in or out.
“The structures involved are usually the uvula and soft palate,” says Wikipedia. “The irregular airflow is caused by a blockage, due to causes including: throat weakness causing the throat to close during sleep, mispositioned jaw, often caused by tension in muscles, fat gathering in and around the throat and oobstruction in the nasal passageway.”
Snoring occurs “when air does not flow smoothly through the air passages, or when the soft tissues or muscles in your air passages vibrate.”
“As you fall into a deep sleep,” says the British United Provident Association (BUPA.COM), a global health and care organization, “the muscles in your tongue, throat and roof of your mouth (soft palate) relax. This muscle relaxation causes your throat tissues to sag. As you breathe, the sagging tissues narrow your airway and vibrate or flutter, creating the sound of snoring. The narrower your airway becomes, the greater the vibration…and the louder your snoring.”
Luboshitzky, Herer and Zila Shen-Orr in their “Decreased Pituitary-Gonadal Secretion in Men with Obstructive Sleep Apnea” published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (March, 2002, page 3394-3398) say that snoring is known to cause sleep deprivation to both the snorer and those who hear him/her, as well as knock-on effects: daytime drowsiness, irritability, lack of focus, decreased libido. It has also been suggested that it can cause significant psychological and social damage to sufferers.
The BBC’s Science and Health says that multiple studies reveal a positive correlation between loud snoring and risk of heart attack (about +34% chance) and stroke (about +67% chance).
At the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, researchers Armstrong, Wallace and Marais found that snoring strains interpersonal relationships, and concerns for its effects were often voiced above the medical malady.
“Patients also lamented the social embarrassment arising from complaints when they sleep outside their homes. Both business and holiday arrangements can be detrimentally affected.”
They said that while snoring is sometimes considered a minor affliction, snorers can suffer severe impairment of lifestyle. The between-subjects trial by Armstrong et al. discovered a statistically significant improvement in marital relations after snoring was surgically corrected.
The UK’s National Health Services tells the more than 15 million Britons affected by snoring that snoring doesn’t usually cause any problems for the person doing it but affects partners, family and even neighbours if it keeps them awake.
“Snoring can sometimes cause sleep apnoea. This is when the blockage in your airway causes you to stop breathing for a few seconds, so you wake up many times during the night. This causes tiredness and can have effect on your day-to-day life. You might not even realise that you are waking up.”
As well as the disturbed sleep that the families, partners and even neighbours suffer as the result of a snorer, there is also cause for concern for those who do manage to catch 40 winks.
“In addition to high blood pressure caused by the odd ‘tiff’, new research suggests that the noise emitted by a snoring partner can raise the silent party’s blood pressure as much as a low-flying aircraft or reversing lorry in the street,” says Stop Snoring, an information distribution site. “The study, published in the European Heart Journal, tested the impact of noise levels on a group of 140 participants at their homes near four major UK airports. The results showed that blood pressure in the volunteers went up noticeably after a noise event of more than 35 decibels.”
The study found that an average snorer reaches 40-69 decibels.
“The loudest snorer, as recorded in the British Guinness Book of Records, is held by Melvin Switzer who reaches a massive 92-decibel.”
The study also said hhigh blood pressure is a known risk factor for heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and dementia.
Along with the rising number in snorers, there are a growing number of research findings to add to the increased health risks that snorers could expect to face.
“A recent study, published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, has found that people who snore between six and seven times per week are 68 percent more likely to develop chronic bronchitis than non-snorers. Even those who snore just five times a week or less are 25 percent more likely to develop the disease.
“Chronic bronchitis is an inflammatory condition in the lungs which causes the respiratory passages to become swollen and irritated. As well as inflammation in the lower airways, sufferers experience breathlessness and a persistent cough, with nasty mucus and phlegm. The vibration caused by snoring is believed to aggravate inflammation in the airways.”
However, apart from the obvious effects on your personal relationships, snoring won’t cause any complications. Nevertheless, obstructive sleep apnoea can cause high blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke in the long-term if it’s not treated.
Unfortunately, there is no miracle cure for snoring, says the National Health Services (UK).
“As some causes of snoring are because of lifestyle, there are changes you can make to minimise snoring: maintain a healthy diet and weight, get regular exercise to strengthen muscles all over your body, try to sleep on your side rather than your back, avoid alcohol before going to bed and quit or cut down on smoking.”
You should also try to keep your nasal passages clear, so you breathe in through your nose rather than your mouth.
If you find that these self-help treatments don’t work, talk to your doctor, please.
“While making lifestyle changes should be the first step in treating your snoring, these measures are not always effective,” says BUPA. “If that is the case, you might want to consider a form of surgery called laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP). This relatively new procedure has been found to stop or reduce snoring in most people.”
It goes on to say that LAUP involves the removal of excess tissue from your soft palate and uvula with a small, hand-held laser.
“The operation makes your airway larger, so vibrations are decreased. The procedure is performed under a local anaesthetic and takes about 30 minutes. Depending on the severity of your snoring, you may need more than one session ÔÇô some people may need up to five or six sessions before their snoring is improved. If you need multiple treatments, they will likely be spaced four to six weeks apart.”
As for me, I think snoring is okay; it assures those who are awake and cannot sleep that the grampus lying there is, indeed, alive.
And I am not just saying that because I do it too.
Even the sleeping one has a voice!
SOURCES: Wikipedia, BUPA.COM, National Health Services,Internet.