You may be among the 45% of normal adults who snore at least occasionally, or you probably know someone who does. He (or she) may be the subject of jokes at family gatherings (“Uncle Joe snores so loud he makes windows rattle!”), But snoring is serious business.
For one thing, a spouse who snores often prevents the other person from getting a good night’s sleep, which can eventually lead to separate bedrooms. “Snoring can create real problems in a marriage,” says Daniel P. Slaughter, MD, an otolaryngologist and snoring expert at Capital Otolaryngology in Austin, Texas.
Not only is snoring a nuisance, but 75% of people who snore have obstructive sleep apnea (when breathing is interrupted during sleep for short periods), increasing the risk of developing heart disease, says Slaughter.
Be careful before self-treating with over-the-counter sprays and pills until you’ve consulted with your doctor, says Sudhansu Chokroverty, MD, FRCP, FACP, program director of Clinical Neurophysiology and Sleep Medicine at JFK Medical Center in Edison, NJ “Many snoring aids are marketed without scientific studies to back up their claims,” says Chokroverty, who is also a professor of neuroscience in the School of Health and Medical Sciences at Seton Hall University.
What Causes Snoring?
Almost everyone snores from time to time and it is usually not a cause for concern. Snoring occurs when you cannot move air freely through your nose and throat during sleep. This vibrates the surrounding tissues, causing the familiar snoring. People who snore often have too much nasal and throat tissue or “flabby” tissue that is more prone to vibrating. The position of the tongue can also hinder smooth breathing.
If you snore regularly at night, it can alter the quality of your sleep, leading to daytime fatigue, irritability, and increased health problems. And if your snoring is keeping your partner awake, it can also create significant relationship problems. Fortunately, sleeping in separate rooms is not the only remedy for snoring. There are many effective solutions that can help you and your partner sleep better at night and overcome the relationship problems that arise when a person snores.
Since people snore for different reasons, it is important to understand the causes behind their snoring. Once you understand why you snore, you will be able to find the right solutions for a more peaceful and deep sleep, both for you and your partner.
Common causes of snoring
Age. As you reach middle age and beyond, your throat becomes narrower and the muscle tone in your throat decreases. While there is nothing you can do to get older, lifestyle changes, new sleep routines, and throat exercises can help prevent snoring.
Being overweight or out of shape. Fat tissue and poor muscle tone contribute to snoring. Even if you are not generally overweight, carrying excess weight around your neck or throat can lead to snoring. Sometimes exercising and losing weight can be all it takes to stop snoring.
The way you are built. Men have narrower airways than women and are more prone to snoring. A narrow throat, cleft palate, enlarged adenoids, and other physical attributes that contribute to snoring are often hereditary. Again, while you have no control over your build or gender, you can control your snoring with the right lifestyle changes, bedtime routines, and throat exercises.
Nasal and sinus problems. Blocked airways or nasal congestion make it difficult to inhale and create a vacuum in the throat, causing snoring.
Alcohol, smoking and medications. Alcohol intake, smoking, and certain medications, such as tranquilizers such as lorazepam (Ativan) and diazepam (Valium), can increase muscle relaxation and lead to more snoring.
Sleeping posture. Sleeping on your back makes the meat in your throat relax and blocks your airway. Changing your sleeping position can help.
Rule out more serious causes
Snoring could indicate sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder in which breathing is briefly interrupted many times each night. Normal snoring doesn’t interfere with the quality of your sleep as much as sleep apnea, so if you suffer from extreme fatigue and drowsiness during the day, it could be an indication of sleep apnea or another sleep-related breathing problem. Call your doctor if you or your sleeping partner have noticed any of the following warning signs:
- He snores loudly and heavily and is tired during the day.
- Stop breathing, gasp, or choke during sleep.
- Falls asleep at inappropriate times, such as during a conversation or a meal.
Linking the cause of your snoring with the cure
Monitoring your snoring for patterns can often help you identify the reasons why you snore, what makes it worse, and how to avoid it. To identify important patterns, it helps to keep a sleep diary. If you have a sleeping partner, he can help you complete it. If you sleep alone, set up a camera to record yourself at night.
Self-help strategies for snoring
There are so many weird anti snoring devices available on the market today, with more and more being added, that finding the right solution for your snoring can seem like a daunting task. Unfortunately, many of these devices are not backed by research or simply work to keep you awake at night. However, there are many proven techniques that can help eliminate snoring. However, not all remedies are suitable for all people, so ending snoring may require patience, lifestyle changes, and a willingness to experiment with different solutions.
Bedtime Remedies to Help You Stop Snoring
Change your sleeping position. Raising the head four inches can make breathing easier and stimulate the tongue and jaw to move forward. There are pillows specifically designed to help prevent snoring by ensuring that the neck muscles are not bent.
Sleep on your side instead of on your back. Try putting a tennis ball on the back of a shirt or pajamas (you can sew a sock on the back of the shirt and then put a tennis ball inside). If you roll over onto your back, the discomfort of the tennis ball will cause you to roll onto your side. Alternatively, place a pillow filled with tennis balls behind your back. After a while, sleeping on your side will become a habit and you can do without tennis balls.
Try an anti-snoring mouth appliance. These devices, which resemble an athlete’s mouth guard, help open the airway by bringing the lower jaw and / or tongue forward during sleep. While an appliance made by a dentist can be expensive, cheaper DIY kits are also available.
Clean nasal passages. If you have a stuffy nose, rinse your sinuses with saline before going to bed. Using a neti pot, nasal decongestant, or nasal strips can also help you breathe easier while you sleep. If you have allergies, reduce dust mites and pet dander in your bedroom or use an allergy medicine.
Keep the air in the bedroom moist. Dry air can irritate the membranes of the nose and throat, so if inflamed nasal tissues are the problem, a humidifier can help.
Lifestyle changes to help you stop snoring
Lose weight. Losing even a little weight can reduce fatty tissue in the back of your throat and decrease, or even stop, snoring.
Give up smoking. If you smoke, your chances of snoring are high. Smoking irritates the membranes of the nose and throat, which can block the airways and lead to snoring. While quitting smoking is easier said than done, it can quickly relieve snoring.
Avoid alcohol, sleeping pills, and sedatives because they relax your throat muscles and interfere with breathing. Also talk to your doctor about any prescription medications you are taking, as some promote a deeper level of sleep that can make snoring worse.
Be careful what you eat before bed. Research shows that eating large meals or consuming certain foods like dairy or soy milk just before bed can make snoring worse.
Exercise in general can reduce snoring, even if it doesn’t lead to weight loss. This is because when you tone various muscles in your body, such as your arms, legs, and abs, this leads to toning your throat muscles, which in turn can lead to less snoring. There are also specific exercises you can do to strengthen your throat muscles.
Medical treatment for snoring
If you’ve tried self-help snoring solutions without success, don’t give up hope. There are medical options that can make a difference. New advances in the treatment of snoring are being developed all the time and the devices are becoming more effective and comfortable.
Talk to your GP or an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat or ENT doctor). Even if they recommend something that was uncomfortable or didn’t work in the past, that doesn’t mean the same thing will happen now.
Medical cures for snoring
Your doctor or otolaryngologist may recommend a medical device or surgical procedure such as:
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). To keep the airway open during sleep, a bedside machine injects air under pressure into a mask that is placed over the nose or face.
Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) uses a laser to shorten the uvula (the soft tissue that hangs at the back of the throat) and to make small cuts in the soft palate on both sides. As cuts heal, surrounding tissues tighten to prevent vibrations that cause snoring.
Palatal implants or the abutment procedure involves the insertion of small plastic implants in the soft palate that help prevent the soft palate from collapsing that can cause snoring.
Somnoplasty uses low levels of radiofrequency heat to remove the tissues of the uvula and soft palate that vibrate during snoring. The procedure is performed under local anesthesia and takes about 30 minutes.
Custom-made dental devices and lower jaw positioners help open the airway by bringing the lower jaw or tongue forward during sleep. For best results, you will need to see a dentist who specializes in these devices.
Surgical procedures such as uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), thermal ablation palatoplasty (TAP), tonsillectomy, and adenoidectomy increase the size of the airways by surgically removing tissues or correcting abnormalities.