For a long time John Mukasa would snore and chock on his own saliva. The snoring was so bad that he lost his partner. “I had not noticed that it was that uncomfortable for her,” he says.
After some time, he married someone else but he would find her sleeping in the sitting room. “She was afraid of telling me the truth but when I asked, she said my snoring was so terrible she could not sleep next to me. I realised that this could be the reason I had lost my first partner,” Mukasa says.
Mukasa adds: “I used to take atleast five bottles of beer every day. When I visited an ENT specialist to inquire about the cause of my snoring, he advised me to reduce my alcohol intake because the sedative effect in the alcohol relaxes the throat muscles and causes snoring. He also gave me medication.”
When he took the medication and stopped taking alcohol, he stopped snoring.
What really happens?
Snoring occurs when air cannot freely move through the nose and throat during sleep. It is the vibration of the airway structures thereby producing a sound due to obstructed air in the throat.
Dr Proscovia Mugaba, a paediatric cardiologist at Kisubi Hospital, says when one slumbers and gets into deep sleep, the muscles in the palate (roof of your mouth), tongue and throat relax and fall into the airway thereby blocking it and causing the vibration.
“When the airway is blocked, airflow becomes hard which increases vibration of the tissues that are in the airway then snoring gets louder. The position of your tongue while you sleep can also get in the way of smooth breathing leading to snoring,” she says.
Snoring affects both children and adults. It is abnormal and no one should get used to it. The problem is usually because there is a blockage in the airways according to Dr Mugaba.
“When children have snoring problems, they can die in their sleep, may develop lung conditions, pneumonia, bad breath, poor growth since the growth hormones are produced while they are asleep. Children that snore are also likely to suffer pulmonary heart diseases,” Dr Mugaba says.
She, therefore, recommends that such a child gets assessment from a paediatrician or an Ear Nose and Throat specialist to find out the cause of the obstruction. This can be removed by using medication or by surgery.
According to Dr Mugaba, congenital abnormalities and obesity are the major causes of snoring among adults but Dr Ricky Byaruhanga, an Ear Nose and Throat specailist at ENT Centre in Kamwokya, says there are other causes.
Common colds and flu can cause obstruction of the airways so a child or even an adult can snore while suffering from these upper respiratory tract infections. Also, allergies that block the airway can cause snoring.
Enlarged tonsils and adenoids can cause blocking of the airways in children but these often shrink in adulthood so this may not be a cause for snoring among adults.
Some children snore because of congenital abnormalities such as down syndrome and others.
When to see a doctor
According to Dr Byaruhanga: “Snoring may not necessarily be a big problem because the causes can easily be addressed but if it is combined with struggling for breath while sleeping; also called obstructive sleep apnoea, it is a big problem because in the episodes when the child is struggling for air, it means they are not getting enough oxygen going to the brain which is likely to cause them to wake up.”
If they continue struggling for air, they are likely to suffer from increased pressure in the lungs and this in the long run can lead to right heart failure and visible chest deformities.
Regular snoring should be treated immediately because it can disrupt the quality of sleep. Interrupted sleep leads to daytime fatigue, irritability, and increased health problems.
You can also get relationship problems if your snoring keeps your partner awake.
“When you realise that a child or adult snores, seek medical attention for the person as soon as possible. The ENT specialist will do an assessment and with tests, they will be able to find out the cause for the blockage and suggest treatment using medicine or surgery,” Dr Ricky Byaruhanga, an Ear Nose and Throat Specailist at ENT Centre in Kamwokya, says.
He adds that most of the problems can be treated using medicine except for adeno-tonsil hypertrophy where the adenoids and tonsils are enlarged which is the commonest cause of snoring and requires surgical operation.