If a bed partner complains about your snoring, you may wonder how loud it can get and why it never wakes you up. People who snore often believe they sleep through the night.
You don’t hear yourself snore while you sleep because the brain lowers its ability to receive information.
The thalamus is the part of the brain responsible for relaying motor and sensory information to the cerebral cortex, filtering out certain sounds and sensations, including snoring.
The thalamus is still active when not in a deep sleep, so people who wake themselves up with snores do so during the first half of the night.
The thalamus only pays attention to sounds it deems important, so your snores are ignored. This means that a baby crying will likely wake you up.
Why Can’t I Hear Myself Snoring?
You can’t hear yourself snoring because the brain’s ability to receive sensory information is limited while you sleep. This is when the brain and body heal from the damage accumulated during the day.
Without sleep, our minds and bodies deteriorate. Due to how important a good sleep cycle is for our health, our mind eliminates anything that may disturb it, including sounds that may wake us up.
The thalamus is the part of the brain that sends motor and sensory information to the cerebral cortex. When we hear noise, the thalamus sends signals to the rest of the brain at the right time.
When we sleep, the function of the thalamus is limited, meaning we can remain asleep in noisy environments.
Of course, our brains don’t completely shut off our alertness when we’re asleep, which would compromise our ability to survive. Why does the thalamus filter out sounds that it considers unimportant?
The brain filters out even, consistent sounds like snoring because it’s non-threatening. Our name, the sound of a child crying or a sudden crash, is likelier to be registered by the thalamus than snoring.
Do Snoring People Hear Themselves?
People who snore rarely wake themselves up but seldom remember when they do.
As mentioned, people don’t hear themselves snore because the brain’s ability to receive sensory information is limited while we sleep. This allows the brain to go through its sleep cycle with minimal disturbances. However, this doesn’t mean we can’t hear anything.
The brain does remain mildly alert, especially during non-REM sleep. Our sleeping cycle has 5 phases, with the initial 3 being non-REM sleep and the final 2 being REM sleep stages. REM sleep is deep sleep, which occurs when the thalamus is least active.
During non-REM sleep, the thalamus is still fairly active. Not as much as when we’re awake, but enough that snorers wake themselves up occasionally and can experience arousal.
An arousal is any sudden change in brain wave activity while sleeping.
An arousal doesn’t necessarily mean that the person wakes up. Even the most inconspicuous change in brain wave activity counts as arousal, including changing our brain activity as we toss and turn in bed.
Experts believe that people who snore experience multiple arousals each night while in the non-REM stage of the sleep cycle. The only problem is that snoring-related arousals are usually brief.
Consequently, the person doesn’t always remember them happening in the morning.
What Does It Mean When You Hear Yourself Snore?
If you hear yourself snoring, it’s because your sleep is very light, and you wake yourself up.
Waking yourself up with snoring is most common during the first half of the sleep cycle, which is before we reach a state of deep sleep.
Hearing yourself snoring before you wake up is a sign that snoring-related arousal is common throughout the night.
This means your non-REM sleep is constantly interrupted. Consequently, you either rarely enter the REM stage of the sleep cycle, or it doesn’t last as long as it should.
A poor sleep cycle has serious consequences, including the following:
- Cardiovascular problems.
- Daytime drowsiness.
- Poor concentration.
- Memory loss.
- Weakened immune system.
- Low fertility.
Even if you don’t often hear yourself snoring, you should still see a doctor if you experience snoring-related arousals during the first few sleep cycle stages.
According to Sleep and Breathing, snoring may not fully wake you, but a disturbed non-REM sleep cycle can affect your long-term health and well-being.
Why Can I Hear Myself Snoring?
If snoring only occurs when we sleep, why do some people hear themselves snoring?
This is because some parts of the brain take longer to wake up than others. You hear yourself snore even though some of you are still in sleep mode for a few moments.
The reticular activating system is in charge of waking us up. The reticular activating system reacts to external stimuli (like sounds or daylight), signaling the brain to wake up.
Our brain and body must adjust to being woken up, which doesn’t always happen simultaneously.
You could be awake, but your muscles may still be relaxed because your body is coming out of atonia. As you breathe in and out, your throat muscles, which relax when sleeping, may still be obstructed.
You’re conscious enough to hear yourself snoring but not enough for your throat muscles to function properly as you lay in bed.
Snoring vs. Sleep Apnea
Snoring is connected to sleep apnea, but they’re not the same thing. According to the Indian Journal of Community Medicine, snoring occurs when your airway is obstructed while you sleep.
Airway obstruction occurs due to sleeping on your back, a thick neck, large tonsils, or a large tongue.
Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder where you stop breathing while you sleep. Besides the same factors that cause snoring, sleep apnea can be caused by several factors, including the following:
- A narrow throat.
Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. However, consult a doctor if you snore because it could develop into sleep apnea. Studies have found that sleep apnea worsens over time.
What Helps with Snoring?
Depending on the cause, certain lifestyle changes must be made to stop snoring. For some, this means losing weight, sleeping in a different position, or having corrective surgery.
According to the European Respiratory Journal, snoring can be caused by the following:
- Alcohol use before bedtime.
- Sleeping on your back.
If you recognize that these causes fit your lifestyle, you can resolve the issue at home or see a doctor for additional guidance and treatment.
Other solutions might require mouthpieces or masks that keep the airway open at night, but they may cause other problems, like excessive salivation or dry mouth.
For people with a narrow airway, surgery might be needed. For example, a surgeon can remove excess throat tissue that obstructs your breathing.
Hypoglossal nerve stimulation, which involves implanting a pulse generator that stimulates forward movement, is available for those who snore because their tongue blocks their airway. This inhibits the tongue from falling back against the throat.
If you can’t hear yourself snore, the brain has filtered this information out. It intends for you to continue sleeping so you can properly regenerate tissues and cells throughout the night.
If it allowed you to hear the snoring, it would disrupt this process by waking you up. If you hear yourself snore, this usually means you’re in a lighter stage of sleep, so less information is filtered out.