Most commonly noticed by nasal congestion, a deviated septum is a condition in which the cartilage and bone that divides the nasal cavity is misaligned. It may be crooked or off center due to an issue at birth or related to an injury to the face. It is estimated that most people may have a slight misalignment with their septum being off center, but it doesn’t normally cause problems. However, a deviated septum, when severely off balance, can be an issue and cause problems with breathing.
Because a deviated septum results in congestion of the nasal passages due to being off center, one side of the nose typically has more congestion than the other side. This may create a noticeable pattern of sinus infections, nosebleeds, headache, pain in the face, mouth breathing, runny nose, nasal stuffiness in one or both nostrils, or breathing problems during sleep.
Can a Deviated Septum Cause Snoring?
When breathing passages are restricted, such as in the case of a deviated septum, it becomes more difficult for the air to flow through freely. This results in ragged or turbulent breathing. In the case of nasal congestion caused by a deviated septum, breathing through the nose becomes difficult and people then tend to breathe through their mouths during sleep. The vibration of the throat and mouth tissues can then result in the annoying sounds of snoring.
Often, with a deviated septum, the congestion and blockage is more severe in one side of nose than the other. To test this, try blocking one side of your nose and breathing through it. Then block the other and breathe through that side. If one is chronically very congested, you may have a problem with a deviated septum, which could be the cause of your snoring issues.
People who have a deviated septum that causes snoring often have a degraded quality of sleep, causing sleep deprivation and list of other related symptoms. Daytime fatigue, insomnia, sore throat or dry mouth (from mouth breathing), and other problems can all be caused by a simple misalignment inside of your nose that you may not have even been aware of.
Deviated Septum and Sleep Apnea
If a deviated septum causes snoring, it may also be to blame for a more serious sleeping condition—obstructive sleep apnea. OSA is a sleep breathing condition in which the body stops breathing periodically throughout the night. When the body stops breathing during sleep apnea, the brain and body are starved of oxygen which can create all sorts of problems. Health conditions that are often related to sleep apnea include obesity, Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and even premature death.
Allowing a severely deviated septum and snoring to go unchecked can result in sleep apnea because the nasal airways are blocked. If the breathing passages are limited by deviated septum, sleep apnea can occur. Loud snoring is one of the most common signs of this disorder, so if you or your sleeping partner are snoring, it’s important to get checked out by a doctor or sleep specialist to rule out more serious related conditions.
Treatments for Deviated Septum and Snoring
If you suspect that you have a deviated septum that is causing impaired breathing or snoring, it is recommended to see an ear, nose, and throat doctor in order to discuss your options. In the most severe cases, surgery may be suggested by your doctor, especially in cases of sleep apnea.
Surgery to repair or straighten a deviated septum is called septoplasty. When it is combined with a “nose job” to correct the way a nose looks, it is referred to as “septorhinoplasty”. This type of surgery is typically done in an outpatient facility and recovery time is short—approximately a few days to a week. If the person with a deviated septum is less than fifteen years old, the doctor may recommend waiting so that the nose has stopped growing before performing surgery related to deviated septum and snoring.
Newer versions of deviated septum repair are also being used on less severe cases. This type of non-invasive surgery uses balloon techniques for septoplasty which can be performed in the doctor’s office and require less recovery time and may not even need anesthesia.
For less severe cases, some natural remedies may be available to help promote healthy sleep breathing which should, in turn, reduce problems with snoring. Here are some of the ways that people with a slightly deviated septum may be able to reduce their amount of snoring:
- Nasal Strips. If the problem has to do with limited space in the nostrils for breathing, then adhesive nasal strips may allow for enough extra room in the nasal passages to minimize snoring problems. Simply stick the adhesive nasal strip onto the outside of the nose before going to bed and remove them in the morning.
- Nose Cones. These soft nasal dilators are placed inside each nostril to allow for fuller inhalation and better breathing during sleep. As the nose cones open up the nostrils to improve airflow, there should be less need for mouth breathing and less possibility for snoring. Some people find that nasal dilators work to improve airflow in the nose, even after surgery for deviated septum has been performed. These non-invasive cones offer instant relief and are completely natural. Although it may feel awkward at first, wearing a plastic cone inside your nose, if it offers relief from snoring then it is completely worth it.
- Nasal Spray or Steam Inhalation. Inhaling steam or using a nasal spray in the nose may temporarily open up the nasal passages and reduce congestion due to swelling. This is especially true if you suffer from sinus infections and the insides of your nasal passages are inflamed or irritated. Some people use a saline nasal spray while others prefer a more natural version that uses grapefruit seed extract as a natural remedy for sinus congestion.
- Decongestant. Some doctors recommend the use of an over-the-counter decongestant for breathing relief that may help reduce problems with snoring.
A deviated septum is a problem that many people live with for years without knowing it. If you struggle with sleep apnea, breathing through both sides of your nose, or other problems related to a deviated septum and snoring then you don’t have to live with it any longer! Your doctor should be able to help you assess the severity of your condition, recommend a treatment, and get you back to sleeping soundly without all of that noisy snoring.