Snoring – More than Just a Noisy Habit
Approximately half of all people snore at some stage in their lives, with about 90 million adults in the United States reporting that they are regular snorers. While snoring affects more men than women, it’s still considered to be a gender neutral problem that can occur at any age. If you’re in the 50% of people who breathe noisily while you sleep, you’ve probably woken up some mornings wondering what it is and if you need to deal with this unharmonious habit.
What is snoring?
Snoring is the hoarse sound made by your relaxed throat tissues when the air you breathe flows past them and makes them vibrate. These vibrations are the classic tones that we recognize as snores. The narrower your airway, the greater the vibration and the louder the snoring.
When and why do you snore?
Some people snore nightly, while others only snore intermittently. What conditions and behaviors contribute to the narrowing of your throat while you sleep, thereby leading to snoring?
- If your nose or throat is inflamed as a result of having a cold or allergies
- Obesity, especially if you have a lot of fatty tissues around your neck
- Sleeping on your back, because gravity helps to narrow your throat
- Sleep deprivation can lead to further relaxation of your throat
- Drinking alcohol at night can relax your throat muscles
- Sedatives and muscle relaxants
- Anatomical abnormalities, such as nasal polyps, enlarged tonsils or adenoids, or a deviated septum
Why is snoring a problem?
Besides making you an undesirable roommate, snoring is associated with a slew of other complications. It can fragment your night’s sleep, so you wake up unrefreshed. As a result, you’ll feel groggy and suffer a reduced ability to focus, including on driving safely. Not only does sleep deprivation damage your mood with feelings of irritability, but it can also damage your health, putting you at higher risk for hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Read about Sleep Hygiene
How can you stop snoring?
There are several lifestyle tips and solutions to put you on the path to quit snoring. Sheba Medical Center’s doctors have prepared the following list of helpful habits to follow:
- Lose weight: some people snore because of excess weight. Weight loss is likely to help, especially if you have excess fat around your neck.
- Sleep on your side: when you lie on your back, it makes the base of your tongue and soft palate droop to the back wall of your throat. If you always roll onto your back when you doze, a full-length body pillow will support you in the right position.
- Avoid alcohol and sedatives: these substances can relax the muscle tone in the back of your throat. Drinking alcohol within four to five hours before bedtime will worsen snoring, and in fact, even people who don’t usually snore may find that they do after drinking.
- Develop proper sleep hygiene: healthy sleep habits go a long way towards getting a good night’s sleep. A variety of research-based recommendations are available.
- Clear your nose: opening your nasal passages may help to keep air flowing slowly and smoothly. Take a hot shower before you go to bed or rinse your nasal passages with a soothing saltwater spray. If you have chronic congestion, ask your doctor about using a prescription steroid spray.
- Drink enough water: when you’re dehydrated, secretions in your nose and soft palate become thicker and stickier.
- Dust your bedroom: change your pillows regularly to ensure that they are irritant-free, and be sure to keep your overhead ceiling fan clean. Dust and pet dander can lead to allergic reactions that may cause nasal inflammation and snoring.
- Raise your head: elevating the head of your bed by approximately 4 inches can make a big difference.
- Apply nasal strips: some people can prevent snoring by applying adhesive strips to the bridge of their nose to widen their nasal passage.
- Stop smoking: along with many other health benefits that quitting smoking brings, it can also reduce snoring.
- Reach your sleep goal: getting enough sleep can be effective; adults are recommended to sleep at least seven hours per night.
When is it time to reach out for medical help?
When snoring disrupts your quality of life and all of the above DIY tips aren’t effective, it’s time to consult your primary care physician.
In 75% of all snorers, the sleep disorder is associated with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is a cessation of breathing. OSA can lead to many serious health conditions. In particular, if you suffer from morning headaches, sore throat upon awakening, gasping or choking at night, high blood pressure, chest pain at night, or regular snoring that’s so loud it wakes up everyone else in your home – it’s an indication that you should visit your doctor for evaluation. Several medical therapies are available for OSA, and your doctor can recommend the most suitable option.