If your husband snores, you are not alone. There are many others all over the world. According to one of the earliest sleep and snore studies in the country, men are 10% more likely to snore than women. The difference increases to 20% in the senior years. Until now, there is no concrete epidemiological study to show how many people habitually snore and how many need medical intervention.
According to another BBC report, as much as 30% of all adults snore from time to time, but for some ethnicity, the rate might be as much as 50%. High numbers do not necessarily mean danger of course, but you have to know the specific causes of your husband’s snoring to determine how “normal” it actually is.
Snoring Signs You Should Be Alert About
A “normal” snore is not exactly normal, medically speaking. The upper airway is designed to allow unobstructed air passage and without resistance as the muscles in the throat voluntarily open and contract. Hearing a snore from your husband is already a sign that the upper airway is either blocked, naturally narrow or small, or is contracting too tight. The real question here is if the snore might lead to other complications and put your husband’s life in danger.
Contrary to popular belief, the sound is not too reliable when telling if a snore is safe or dangerous. A soft and short snore might be as dangerous as a loud and long snore, although the latter is a clearer sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
What you should be bothered about is the frequency of your husband’s snoring, when it happens, and what happens when your husband snores.
In most cases, habitual snoring of three to four times a week does not imply anything worth consulting a doctor for. However, your husband might have to be checked if he frequently wakes up at night because of snoring or shallow/disrupted breathing. It might also be a sign of sleep disorder if he experiences episodes when he temporarily stops breathing.
Reasons Why Your Husband Snores
There are more than a dozen possible reasons why your husband snores. Not all of these reasons need medical intervention though. Listed below are the most common ones that everyone should know about:
• Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
OSA is a common reason of snoring in adults. It happens when the airway collapses inwards, blocking the air partially or entirely for a few seconds. Not all cases require immediate medical attention, but all of them might benefit from consultation and treatment as soon as possible.
Your husband might be suffering from OSA if he experiences episodes of 10-second breathing pauses up to 300 times every night. You can try observing your husband’s breathing pattern if his snoring is already bothering you.
OSA is potentially dangerous because it decreases the oxygen level in the blood, which puts a strain on the heart and brain in the process.
• Nasal congestion due to allergy and common cold
Some allergic reactions like allergic rhinitis (hay fever) cause snoring because they clog the nasal passage. The clog results from a runny and stuffy nose. For more severe allergic reactions though, the pharynx might swell, which makes breathing more difficult.
Even the common cold is enough to cause snoring, especially when it already infects the sinus down to the end of the nose in front of the throat.
• Upper airway resistance syndrome
This is sometimes misdiagnosed as sleep apnea because of inaccurate descriptions when consulting a doctor. The two are entirely different though as upper airway resistance syndrome mainly pertains to sleep disruption due to snoring while sleep apnea pertains to breathing problem when sleeping.
Your husband might have this syndrome if the vibration in his throat is too loud and long. The snore itself wakes him up and the palpable vibration makes it hard for him to sleep deep.
• Deviated septum
This is a deformity where the nostrils are not equal in size because the wall that separates them has undergone structural change. Naturally, this makes breathing less easy as one or both nostrils experience air resistance.
• Weak tongue, throat, and airway muscles
It is possible that the muscles and nerves in your husband’s tongue, throat, and airway muscles are not strong and coordinated enough. This is usually an issue of frequent inactivity (e.g. speech disorder as a result of trauma) or vitamin deficiency. A doctor might be able to prescribe a set of supplements that can strengthen your muscles and nerves. Occupational and respiratory therapies might also be of help.
• Too relaxed airway muscle
The airway naturally relaxes for everyone during sleep. It collapses a little at the back of the throat but not enough to block airflow. For some people though, their airway relaxes more than needed, so breathing becomes harder, sometimes resulting to a five- to 10-second delay in breathing.
Some studies suggest that this does not happen on a daily basis even for people who frequently experience it. While obstructive sleep apnea is a medical condition, an airway that relaxes too often is usually caused by external and human-induced factors. Tiredness often plays a role, but it might also be due to alcohol, tobacco, certain drugs like anti-depressants and muscle relaxants.
Too much fat in the neck can put pressure in the airway, preventing it from opening fully and allowing the air to flow naturally.
• Excessive soft palate, tongue, and throat tissues
Excess tissues partially block the airway. It might be inborn but many cases only become noticeable when a person undergoes drastic weight change. This might be the case of your husband if he recently gained weight.
When diagnosed, the doctor might say that your husband has a bulky throat tissue, has long soft palate, or has long and thick tongue
• Enlarged tonsil and adenoid
It is common for many people to experience enlarged tonsil and adenoid. However, if it happens too often and is already becoming a burden to your husband’s sleep, you might have to consider medical intervention, such as surgery or treatment for the infection.
Helping Your Husband Stop Snoring
If you and your husband have decided to avoid medical consultation as much as possible, a complete lifestyle change is the first possible solution to try. Losing weight might relieve the pressure caused by excessive fats and tissues in his airway. Staying away from dust and other allergens that cause allergy attack can also prevent nasal congestion. Most importantly, ask him to reduce his alcohol intake and smoking if completely avoiding them seems impossible.
To be assured that your husband’s snoring problem is not serious, it would be advisable to see a doctor. The doctor could prescribe nutritional supplements for the muscles and nerves or recommend Positive Airway Pressure (PAP). With PAP, he will be asked to wear an oral appliance or mask to put pressure on the airway if it does not open fully for some reason. If there’s a more serious problem, a surgical procedure might be ordered to stop your husband’s snoring problem.