It is estimated that 20% of men and 5% of women between 30 and 35 years of age snore and that this increases to 50% of men and 30% of women over 60 years of age, of whom about a third habitually snore. Snoring is related to obesity and the use of sedatives and alcohol.
Snoring can disrupt family life. When habitual, it may result in the person who snores sleeping alone. Snoring may cause other family members sleepless nights and thus resentment.
How does snoring occur?
The physiological mechanisms which control breathing change in sleep. Key factors include:
Muscle relaxation in sleep
Negative inspiratory pressure
Loose pharyngeal tissues.
Grade 1 : Occasional snorer - often related to sleep position, alcohol and fatigue
Grade 2 : Habitual snorer - may be associated with upper airway resistance syndrome or mild obstructive sleep apnea syndrome
We now understand that snoring is due to abnormal vibration and narrowing of the pharyngeal part of the upper airway.
Snoring occurs when the inspiratory airflow causes the loose tissues of the upper airway to vibrate. The loose tissues involved are primarily the soft palate and the uvula; however, the nasopharyngeal tissues, tonsils, pharyngeal walls and tongue base can all contribute.
On inspiration , air taken in through the nose flutters the palate from above and air taken in through the mouth vibrates the palate from below. The more unstable the airflow, the greater the palatal flutter and the louder the snoring.
Choking, heavy snoring is often due to the tongue base vibrating against the back of the pharynx.