Sunday, April 10, 2011

I Am Woman Hear Me Snore

I am woman, hear me snore? Not me! Women in general are too embarrassed to admit that they snore. But anyone can snore, even a woman. Studies show that 30% of women snore regularly. What is snoring? While we sleep airflow causes tissues of the nose and throat to vibrate and form sound waves. There is no definitive body type that causes snoring, but those that are heavier are more incline to snore due to the extra weight narrowing the airway passage on their neck. Different people have different reasons for the narrowing. It can be caused by certain medication, drinking alcohol, a viral illness or a physical irregularity. The narrowing can be in the nose, mouth or throat.

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Ideally breathing out of your nose is the best way to sleep easy. The nose acts as a humidifier, heater and filter for incoming air. When our nasal cavity becomes obstructed due to a deviated nasal septum, allergies, sinus infections, swelling or large adenoids we breathe through our mouth. People who breathe through their mouths habitually while they sleep are sometimes called “mouth breathers” and many snore because the flow of air through their mouth causes greater vibration of tissues.

Physical irregularity such as a soft palate can cause snoring because it is too long or droops. The soft palate is the muscular extension of the bony roof of the mouth or hard palate that separates the back of the mouth from the nasal passages. The soft palate is important when breathing and swallowing. During breathing the palate moves forward for air to pass into the lungs. When swallowing the palate moves backwards to direct food and liquid to move down the esophagus instead of into the back of the nose. The uvula is the small extension in the back of the soft palate that assists the functions of the soft palate and produce guttural fricative sounds used in some languages (English words do not use guttural fricative sounds). The uvula may be abnormally long or thick which contributes to snoring.

The soft palate and the uvula are often the reasons for snoring, therefore, doctors may recommend surgical treatments to stop vibrations. If you speak a language that uses guttural fricative sounds, a surgical treatment for snoring may not be proposed for you.

The tonsils and adenoids are infection fighting tissues that swell when battling bacteria and viruses. The tonsils are the two masses of tissue on either side of the back of the throat. The adenoids are located high in the throat behind the nose and soft palate and unlike the tonsils, are not easily visible through the mouth. The most common problems occurring with the tonsils and adenoids are recurrent or chronic infections and significant enlargement (hypertrophy). Often they remain enlarged after the infection is gone and can narrow the airway causing snoring and disturbed sleep patterns that may lead to sleep pauses or sleep apnea. Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy are warranted in situations where there is enlargement of the tonsils and adenoids to such an extent that it causes severe sleep problems, snoring, sleep apnea, dental abnormalities and difficulty swallowing. Adenoid enlargement alone, or in combination with tonsil enlargement, can cause nasal obstruction, recurrent ear infections or sinusitis. If these conditions are resistant to medical therapy, surgery is often recommended.

The base of the tongue is the part of the tongue that is farthest back of the mouth and if it is too large it can slip backwards narrowing the airway passage which can lead to snoring. An enlarged tongue may be due to an under-active thyroid gland or other medical condition. Once the underlying cause is treated snoring usually subsides.

Some birth defects and genetic syndromes can cause snoring. Disorders such as Apert's Syndrome can cause midface hypoplasia. This condition is often associated with a sunken bridge of the nose that causes the nasal passages to be partly or completely blocked, and with an elongated soft palate. Other congenital conditions associated with snoring are:

Retrognathia, a condition in which the lower jaw is located farther back than the upper jaw
Laryngomalacia, or the collapse of the larynx's soft cartilage during inhalation
Choanal atresia, the blockage of the back of the nasal passage by abnormal tissue
• Specific Genetic Syndromes:
o Apert's Syndrome, associated with abnormalities of the skull, face, and palate
o Pierre Robin Sequence, associated with a very small lower jaw, cleft palate, and the tendency for the tongue to fall back and downwards in the airway
o Treacher Collins Syndrome, a genetic abnormality involving severe underdevelopment of the lower jaw, facial hypoplasia, and facial cleft
o Goldenhar Syndrome, a set of one-sided craniofacial defects that can result in the migration of the soft palate to the unaffected side of the face

These syndromes are very rare, and it is unlikely that they would go unnoticed as a hidden cause of snoring. They are mentioned only because those with any of these conditions may have problems with snoring, and relatives or caregivers may not associate the chronic snoring with the condition itself.

Snoring can occur during all or some stages of sleep but most prevalent during REM sleep because of the loss of muscle tone characteristic of this stage. During REM sleep, the brain signals all the body’s muscles to relax except the breathing muscles. Unfortunately, some of the muscles that do relax are the tongue, palate and throat. When we lie on our back gravity can pull the palate, tonsils and tongue backward narrowing the airway enough to cause snoring. That’s why when you turn on your side these tissues are no longer pulled back and snoring stops or lessens.

If you are a woman you many not only be embarrassed or concerned that your snoring is affecting your sleep partners rest, you may also be worried about how it is affecting your health. If you are one of the 33% that snore regularly you are more likely to experience obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), heart disease and stroke. Your doctor can diagnosis the cause of your snoring and recommend treatments and lifestyle changes. If your snoring is due to your weight, losing 10% of your body fat can reduce the obstruction to your airway passage on your neck. If you take certain medications like relaxants or painkillers or drink alcohol right before bedtime these can relax the muscles in the back of your throat causing you to snore. People who smoke are more prone to snore.

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Many women don’t know they snore because they do not have a partner to tell them. So how can you find out if you snore? An iPhone application called Snore Sleep Inspector can analyze the sounds that are made by an individual during sleep. As soon as the calibration feature detects a sound exceeding the threshold, your iPhone will vibrate as long as it is turned on or it will record the sounds during sleep and enable you to listen once you wake up. The advantage of the vibration feature is that it not only will let the person know that they snore it also causes the snorer to change their sleeping position so they can stop snoring without waking up. It is also possible to check a report presented with graph of the recordings during your sleep.

You can also have a sleep study done at a sleep clinic center where they can monitor you while asleep to determine if you snore. See: Overnight sleep study at a sleep center clinic. The content provided in I Am Woman Hear Me Snore is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for your sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.

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