Why do we make so much noise when we breathe when we are asleep

From snoring to heavy breathing while we sleep there is a step. Obviously, one is more annoying than the other. Both can be a sign of a health problem, but in most cases it is not serious. How do we know if we are one of those who snore or just breathe very hard in dreams? That is impossible for us to know on our own, but surely if we have to share a bed, the person who sleeps next to us knows it too well.

But why is it that our breathing increases in intensity as we fall into the arms of Morpheus? "The sound you make when you breathe, whether you are awake or asleep, is caused by the vibration of the air that emerges through our airways," he says. Timotuy Morgenthaler, pulmonologist specializing in sleep medicine at the Maño Clinic, to 'Live Science'. "The volume of breath sounds depends on how wide or narrow the breathing tube is and how fast the air passes through it. Almost like a musical wind instrument."

"When you are asleep, the upper airways tend to collapse only partially, hence the air goes faster and sounds more"

When inhaling, the rapid movement of air that flows through the upper respiratory tract (the part that extends from the mouth to the larynx), decreasing the pressure in the entire respiratory tract. This pressure change can cause the upper airways to collapse, what obstructs breathing. A reflex effect prevents this collapse from occurring in order to keep the respiratory tube fully open and not run out of air.

Open or closed roads

"Being open, the flow does not go too fast, so the air moves without much sound", Morgenthaler asserts. "But when you're asleep, the reflex loses strength. The upper airways tend to collapse only partially, and that's when breathing becomes louder than normal. Sleep, especially in the rapid eye movement phase (REM ) also leads to lower muscle tone in the airway area. " In other words, the muscles that support the throat area relax, allowing the breathing tube to contract. As they become narrower, the speed of the air that circulates through them also increases, vibrating more and therefore creating more sound.

"Even though you breathe more frequently while you sleep, you actually take in less oxygen and expel less carbon dioxide."

This narrowing of the upper airways also causes breathing to become shallower. A person, on average, inhales and exhales about 14 times per minute while awake and 15 or 16 times while sleeping, according to Morgenthaler's calculations. "Even though you breathe more frequently while you sleep, you actually take in less oxygen and expel less carbon dioxide because the need for body ventilation is not as high as when you are awake ", argues. "Asleep we don't have to run or go to work."

Snoring occurs when the subject's airway becomes so narrow that the air comes out faster, vibrating with greater intensity. "This usually happens when the breathing tube reaches the diameter of a McDonald's straw, which is a little wider than normal straws, "Morgenthaler didactically compares." When it is so small, not only the air inside the airway vibrates, but also the tissues in that area, which ends up causing snoring ".

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What happens if the individual's airway narrows even more and more? What is known as obstructive sleep apnea occurs, which forces the person to wake up to take a breath, because if they are asleep they could be out of breath. If it has ever happened to you, do not panic, because if it does not become chronic, it does not involve more seriousness. But in case there have already been several occasions, it is best that you go to a sleep professional to do an analysis on your sleep. "Losing weight is usually an effective treatment because excess fat accumulated around the airways can obstruct inhalation and exhalation," recommends the expert. "As in turn, avoid alcohol consumption hours before bedtime, which makes the muscles around the neck relax. "