Snoring isn’t a sign of age. It can be treated successfully.
Approximately 45% of adults snore occasionally. The Cleveland Clinic reports that 25% of adults are habitual snorers. Snoring is a sign that something is wrong. It could be as simple as your sleep position is making your body work too hard to breathe while you sleep or as serious as sleep apnea.
People joke about snoring, but habitual snoring is often a symptom of a serious medical condition. About 75% of the people who suffer from a snoring habit have underlying obstructive sleep apnea due to the disruption of their breathing for short periods while they sleep. This leads to an increased risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. It also leaves them to sleep deprived because the quality of their sleep isn’t as good, which increases the risk they will be involved in an accident.
Be cautious before self-treating snoring or sleep apnea with over-the-counter sprays or pills. Consult your doctor for treatment. While there are many snoring aids available in the market, quite a few of them don’t have scientific studies backing up their claims.
What Causes Snoring?
Snoring occurs when the tissues of the throat are relaxed and vibrating as you breathe in while air rushes past them. Several conditions can contribute to snoring such as weight gain, lifestyle changes, mouth shapes, nasal shape, alcohol consumption, serious medical conditions, and many other factors.
The following illustration shows some of the physical aspects of snoring.
A clogged nose prevents you from breathing through your nose, which can cause you to snore. It happens either due to the flu, a cold, or allergies. Nasal strips or over-the-counter medicines can help you open your nasal passage. Snoring that occurs due to an illness is a temporary problem and if you’re not experiencing distress from it, it should resolve when your illness or allergies go away.
SLEEPING ON YOUR BACK
Sleeping on your back can cause snoring or make it worse. Sleeping on your sides can alleviate snoring in some people. Instead of sleeping flat on the bed, you can try stacking 2-3 pillows to raise your head (or use an adjustable bed). Sleeping on your stomach is the least healthy sleep position and can increase snoring.
One side of the thin wall between your nostrils can be smaller than the other, causing a deviated septum. This condition makes it complicated for an individual to sleep by making it difficult to breathe and causing snoring. The same condition can occur following an accident. Consult your doctor as surgery is sometimes needed to fix this issue.
The upper part of the mouth is directed towards the throat. If the soft palate is thick and low, it narrows the airway, making you snore. The same happens if a small part of the soft palate, the uvula, hangs longer than usual. These anatomical issues might cause severe problems if you are overweight. Surgery can correct these issues or, if they weren’t a problem before you experienced weight gain, weight loss might resolve the issue without surgery.
Drugs such as sedatives, antidepressants, or muscle relaxers can relax the tongue and throat muscles and cause or increase snoring. If medications are causing you to snore, consult your doctor to see if you should change your medications.
When you have a habit of severe snoring leading to breathing difficulties while you sleep, it can be a sign that you have sleep apnea. Actual sleep apnea must be diagnosed by your doctor. Signs of sleep apnea include a headache, dry mouth, or a sore throat when you wake up. Your sleeping partner may notice that you seem to stop breathing and then begin again, sometimes with a gasp, while you are sleeping. Sleep apnea is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. You need to consult your doctor about your snoring issue if you suspect you are experiencing sleep apnea. These are some of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can be treated. Treatment can reduce or eliminate the symptoms and may save your life
There are multiple reasons behind snoring. You can begin examining the quality of your sleep using our free Sleep Journal. The Sleep Journal will help you identify factors that may be affecting the quality of sleep you’re getting. If lifestyle changes don’t resolve your snoring, the Sleep Journal will help your physician identify the exact cause. If your physician decides to refer you to a sleep specialist, the Sleep Journal can be helpful before you undergo a sleep study at a sleep lab.
These are some possible causes of snoring:
Physical changes that can occur at middle-age and beyond
Overweight leading to poor muscle tone along with fatty tissue formation
Sinus or nasal problems, such as a stuffy or blocked nose
Medications such as tranquilizers, such as Diazepam and Lorazepam
Physical characteristics (deviated septum, etc.)
Smoking and/or Alcohol
Sleeping posture, such as sleeping on your back or stomach
Anti-snoring devices are readily available over the counter with new variations showing up all the time. Finding the perfect solution for snoring is a daunting task for many individuals. Unfortunately, many anti-snoring appliances are available without any research or scientific support; some of them work by keeping you awake when you want to sleep.
There are various proven techniques for stopping you from snoring, but they require patience, willingness, and lifestyle changes that you’ll have to commit to making if you are to be successful.
If you lie down on your back while asleep, it results in the collapse of the soft palate and the base of your tongue with the back wall of the throat. This leads to a vibrating sound while asleep. Changing your regular sleep position to your side might help prevent or reduce snoring.
According to Slaughter, a full-length or body pillow aids in supporting your entire body, which makes it easier to change your sleep position. The pillow helps you maintain your side sleeping position which can make a dramatic difference.
If you are a back or stomach sleeper who is having issues with snoring, keep our sleep journal for a week and then shift to sleeping on your side. At the end of the second week, compare the quality of your sleep and how you feel when sleeping on your side with how you felt when you were on your back.
Shifting from sleeping on your back to your side may require a softer mattress. Side sleepers generally need a mattress that will compress at the shoulders and hip to avoid pressure points. You can use a mattress topper to adjust the firmness level of your mattress until it is time to get a new one.
According to Dr. Sudhansu Chokroverty, a world-recognized expert in sleep medicine, if you recline your bed with the head position extended and upwards, it results in the opening of the nasal air passageway, resulting in snoring-free sleep. However, extended positioning of the bed can result in neck pain. If you try this and still have a habit of snoring regardless of changing your sleeping position, then you should consult a doctor about sleep apnea.
Another way to avoid sleeping on your back is to sew a tennis ball in the rear of your pajamas or t-shirt that will wake you up if you roll over onto your back. This will help you maintain your side sleeping position.
3. Opening of the nasal airway passage
Snoring begins with the nose. If you keep your nasal passageway open, it will prevent you from snoring. The open airway allows the air to pass without obstruction. The narrower the nasal passage, the more difficult it is for air to pass through it.
Clogging or narrowing down of the nose, either due to blockage or congestion, makes the air move faster which can lead to snoring. Taking a hot shower before bed helps open your nasal passage. You can practice rinsing your nose with salt water to make your nasal passage more open for perfect breathing without any chances of snoring. However, be sure to always use distilled water and make sure the equipment you use to rinse your nasal passage is sterilized. If you use a Neti Pot, be sure to follow all the directions to prevent the introduction of bacteria to your nasal passage.
Nasal strips also work well for lifting the nasal passages resulting in opening them. The nasal strips are useful if the problem exists within your nose rather than the soft palate. They are more likely to offer your sleeping partner a little bit of relief from the noise than they are to fix your physical issue.
4. Keep your sleeping space filled with moist air
Dry air in the bedroom might lead to irritation of the nasal and oral membranes. If the nasal muscles are swollen, a humidifier could reduce or eliminate the problem.
Weight loss aids in the prevention of snoring for some people. However, underweight individuals can also have trouble with snoring.
Snoring due to excessive weight can be prevented by losing weight. Weight gain around the neck can squeeze the internal diameter of your throat, making it smaller during sleep, which makes the air flow through with more force that triggers snoring.
Weight loss can be more complicated than diet and exercise. The latest research revealed connections between sleep deprivation, stress, and gut microbiota on the digestive system that can increase or decrease your ability to maintain, gain, or lose weight. A physician supervised weight loss plan will give you your best chance of success.
6. Avoid drinking alcohol
Sedatives and alcohol relax the muscles in the rear of your throat, which makes you more prone to snoring. If you drink alcohol within 4-5 hours of going to bed, you will make your snoring worse.
According to Chokroverty, people who drink alcohol are more prone to snoring than people who do not drink alcohol.
7. Avoid Exhaustion
Exhaustion can affect the muscles in your airway much like alcohol does. According to Slaughter, if you keep working for extended periods, not sleeping for many hours, and then finally go to bed utterly exhausted, you will sleep deeper and harder with floppier muscles leading to snoring.
8. Try Changing Your Pillows
The allergens in your pillows or your bedroom can also serve as a causative factor.
If you are perfectly fine during the day, yet suffer from breathing and snoring issues at night, then allergens might be the cause. Dust mites accumulate in your pillows which can cause allergic reactions that cause snoring. If you sleep with pets on the bed, dander from their coats might irritate your throat and airway, leading to breathing issues while you sleep.
To take good care of your pillow, put it in the dryer on the air fluff cycle every week or two. Purchasing new pillows every six months will also help. Keeping dust mites and allergens away from your bedroom will reduce any allergic reactions you’re having to them.
Most people who sleep with their pets won’t give it up. I know I won’t. If you’re having significant problems, consider placing a pet bed adjacent to yours instead of having your pets in your bed. You can also consider hypo-allergenic breeds when you adopt your next pet.
Secretions from the soft palate and nose become stickier if you do not drink enough water, so drinking fluids regularly prevents snoring. According to the Institute of Medicine, women should consume around 11 cups of water from foods and drinks each day, while a man requires approximately 16 cups.
Exercise can help you reduce snoring along with helping you with any weight loss goals you have. Improving muscle tone in your body can help tone your throat muscles and reduce snoring.
11. Yoga Breathing Exercise
This yoga breathing technique can help with sleep apnea although it isn’t a substitute for the treatment plan your doctor prescribes. Yoga complements the medical approach.
The following exercises can also help develop better muscle tone in your neck:
Pronounce vowels (a, e, i, o, and u) which result in the strengthening of the muscles associated with the upper breathing tract resulting in less snoring. Tip your head back and repeat the vowels three times each, at least 4-5 times daily.
Place your tongue’s tip behind the top of your front teeth, sliding the tongue backward for around 3 minutes each day.
Purse your lips as soon as you close your jaw and hold this position for around 30 seconds.
Open your mouth and move the jaw towards the left, holding this position for around 30 seconds then repeat it on the right side.
Open your mouth and contract the muscles present at the rear of the throat for around 30 seconds repeatedly. You can look in a mirror while performing this task and see the uvula moving down and up.
Singing also increases muscle control of your soft palate and throat, thus reducing the snoring.
12. Medical Treatment Options to Stop Snoring
Here are some more exercises for you to try:
I could really feel the stretch in the muscles in some of those. Did you notice the stretch in your muscles? Here’s another group of anti-snoring exercises:
If you do not achieve success treating yourself with self-help strategies and lifestyle changes, do not lose hope as there are multiple medical solutions that can help you reduce or eliminate snoring.
Consult an otolaryngologist or physician for their recommendation regarding surgery or appliances. The available medical treatment options for prevention of snoring include:
CPAP or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure: wearing a pressurized mask over the nose while asleep helps keep your airways open. This treatment option is usually recommended for obstructive sleep apnea.
LAUP or Laser-Assisted Uvulopalatoplasty: it aids in shortening of the uvula which prevents the vibration that causes snoring.
Pillar Procedure or Palatal Implant Placement: insertion of palatal implants prevents the soft palate from collapsing, which prevents snoring.
Somnoplasty includes the application of Radiofrequency with the help of low to moderate levels of heat to reduce snoring.
Lower jaw positioners and custom-fitted dental appliances allow the lower jaw or tongue to move forward.
Various surgical procedures, including Thermal Ablation Palatoplasty or TAP, Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty or UPPP, adenoidectomy or tonsillectomy, can aid in removing excessive tissue and open the airway.
Is it better to continue sleeping with a snoring partner?
Choosing to sleep separately from your partner may save your marriage. Sleep deprivation is a serious problem. One proven side effect of sleep deprivation is perceiving others and our circumstances in a worse light than we do when we are rested. This means that sleeping with a partner whose snoring disturbs your sleep will lead to you finding fault with them more often than you would if you were well rested.
When a couple begins seeing more of the bad than the good in their partner, their marriage is in serious trouble. You won’t realize that you’re perceiving your partner in a negative light because you are sleep deprived. It takes a great deal of awareness to notice that and when you’re sleep deprived, you are unlikely to be able to achieve or maintain that level of awareness. Sleep deprivation is not compatible with a high sense of awareness.
As noted by Dr. Daniel P. Slaughter of Sinus & Snoring Specialists of Texas, snoring can lead to real problems in a marriage.
If you have the ability to sleep separately, make sure you make time for intimacy. A habit of spending time together in one bed before you retire to your separate beds can help your marriage stay strong while providing you with the opportunity to sleep well. While it may seem as if the non-snorer will benefit more from separate rooms, the snorer isn’t sleeping deeply which means any movements their partner makes, even on a bed that doesn’t transfer motion, can further disturb their sleep.
A move to separate bedrooms requires good communication. Both people must understand that the move isn’t a reflection on the relationship. As long as the decision is made from a place that understands the importance of consistently getting a good night’s sleep and an effort is made to maintain intimacy in other ways, separate bedrooms can save your marriage.
To conclude, you need to get enough sleep to maintain your health. Adults need about 7 – 9 hours. Snoring indicates that something is wrong, much like a fever indicates something is wrong. Exactly what is not right can take some time to determine. Firming your muscles, either through weight loss or exercise, can help reduce snoring. Sleeping on your side, avoiding alcohol, and taking a hot shower before hitting the sack when you are suffering from clogged nasal passages may alleviate many of the symptoms.
According to Slaughter, following these simple practices in your life will make a huge difference and aid in reducing snoring issues. If these changes don’t improve your symptoms, you should consult your doctor.