Is Your Obesity to Blame for Your Snoring?

By Loran Simon

It is a little known fact that being overweight or obese significantly increases the chance that you will also snore when you sleep. This is due to the gain in weight round the neck. This extra weight causes the airway to narrow whilst you are asleep. When you are asleep the muscles also relax and the lower jaw may drop backwards. All this contributes to a narrowing of the airway. The air then has to travel quicker through the narrowed airway to supply the lungs with the same quantity of air. The increased air speed causes the soft tissues to vibrate resulting in the snoring noise.

An increase in weight can cause someone that hasn't snored before to all of a sudden start snoring. On the face of it this might not appear like an issue for the snorer. But for the sleeping partner this is often infuriating. Snoring can make it hard for the sleeping partner to fall asleep. In the end the snoring may cause conflicts in the relationship and in some cases has also been known to end up in separation or divorce. Quite often one of them will finish up sleeping in another room. If this isn't possible the sleeping partner might resort to ear plugs and even sleeping pills.

The snoring however can be an indicator of a far more serious condition called obstructive sleep apnoea. Snoring loudly and being overweight are significant risk indicators of obstructive sleep apnoea. Sleep apnoea (blocked airway) is a natural progression from snoring (partly blocked airway) in certain circumstances. With sleep apnoea the sufferer will stop breathing many times in the night. Luckily the bodies emergency system will get them breathing again, typically with a loud gasp or choking sound. The pauses in breathing put the body under a lot of strain strain and increase the chances of dieing prematurely by 30%. Sleep apnoea is proven to increase the chances of stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

If you think you or a person you know could be experiencing sleep apnoea it is highly recommended to see your doctor for referral to a specialist for diagnosis.

A specialist will be able to prescribe a simple and effective treatment such as CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) or an MAA (mandibular advancement appliance). There is no cure for sleep apnoea, these treatments instead control the sleep apnoea by keeping the airway open during sleep. The CPAP machine is a face mask with a hose hooked up to a machine that pumps pressurized air into the airways. The MAA is an oral device similar in appearance to a sports mouth guard, it is worn during sleep and holds the lower jaw forward to maintain an open airway.

Some studies have shown that over 80% of patients prefer mandibular advancement appliances to CPAP. The newest 4th generation MAA is the Somnowell. It is small, discreet, and effective at managing snoring and sleep apnoea.

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