At the end of a hard week there is nothing better than sitting around a braai with a good beer. South Africans consume over 5 million litres of alcohol annually. According to the World Health Organization (WHO); South Africa has one of the highest per capita consumption rates in the world.
There is a large correlation between alcohol consumption and snoring incidence and volume
A multi variable study conducted in Turkey found that individuals over the age of 40, and or individuals who suffer from obesity, smoking, and frequent use of alcohol have an increased risk of snoring. It also found that men are more than twice as likely to snore as women1.
Alcohol affects the level of chemical neurotransmitters in the brain. These neurotransmitters send messages to various parts of the body, controlling body and mental functions. Alcohol acts as both an excitatory (increased activity) and inhibitory (decreased activity) neurotransmitter. Alcohol increases the production of dopamine; an excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitter which creates the feeling of pleasure that occurs during drinking. This feeling often results in a larger consumption of alcohol. Alcohol also increases the effects of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter; causing increased muscle relaxation, sluggish movements and slurred speech 2.
During sleep, the muscles at the back of your throat (the oropharynx) loose tension and collapse inwards narrowing the upper respiratory tract. This narrowing increases air resistance and causes throat vibrations which we call “snoring”. When drinking alcohol this relaxation is exacerbated. Alcohol causes significant throat narrowing, thereby increasing airflow resistance and snoring volume.
A poll conducted in 2005 by the National Sleep foundation found that snoring not only reduced the quality of sleep but drastically affected their relationships. 64% of snorers said their snoring volume was as loud as talking. 17% of these individuals said their snoring could be heard from adjacent rooms. Many individuals actually sleep in separate rooms to escape their partners snoring. In persistent snorers alcohol aggravates the snoring and can make it unbearable.
It takes an average of one hour to process one unit of alcohol, but this level can differ from person to person. In order to minimise your snoring, you should avoid alcohol for at least 4 hours before going to bed.
1. Kara CO1, Zencir M, Topuz B, Ardiç N, Kocagözoğlu B. 2005. The prevalence of snoring in adult population. Department of Otolaryngology, Medicine Faculty of Pamukkale University, Denizli, Turkey. 14(1-2):18-24. PMID: 16227718
2. Watson, Stephanie. “How Alcoholism Works”. 08 June 2005. HowStuffWorks.com. http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/human-brain/alcoholism.htm. 01 September 2014