Snoring is such a common thing, but dealing with it can be very frustrating. Snoring at night is a sign of relaxation, but it could also be a symptom of some serious problems.
Snoring Definition: The act of sleeping causes your muscles to relax, including the muscles in your nose and throat. If there’s too much tissue in one of your breathing passages (or if you just have a cold), the air will have to force its way in and out. That vibration is the cause of the snoring.
Although snoring seems like no big deal, having difficulty breathing comfortably is always something worth investigating. If your snoring is costing you or your partner some much-needed rest, you have another incentive to think about treatments.
There are many reasons people snore. This means that what works for one person might not work for you, and vice versa. Fortunately, you have a lot of options to consider for solutions. Find out what causes snoring for you or a loved one, and you can try out some lifestyle changes or products that could help. In some cases, medical assistance is a necessity.
Reasons Why We Snore
Figuring out why you snore is the first step to identifying a way to manage it. In some cases, it is based on the way you sleep. Others are related to your anatomy and can be harder to change.
- Weight Gain: Adding extra tissue to the body can happen anywhere, including your nasal passages. Gaining weight, even as a result of pregnancy, might trigger snoring (or make it worse).
- Sleep Position: Sleeping on your back constricts your airways, increasing the likelihood that you’ll snore.
- Drinking Too Much: Alcohol is a sedative that relaxes all your muscles, including the ones you need to breathe clearly. Hitting it hard too soon before bed could make for a loud night.
- Sedating Medications: Other drugs you take at night might have a similar effect on your breathing, especially if you take them to help you sleep.
- Colds and Allergies: Anything that causes swelling in your nose or throat could make you snore. Seasonal allergies may call for periodic changes to your routine to minimize it.
- Smoking: Like allergies, smoking inflames the tissues of your respiratory system. Pushing air through it gets progressively more difficult, creating the vibrations.
- Overtired: Getting a little less shut-eye might seem like an easy way to cut down on the sound, but too little sleep actually makes snoring worse.
- Anatomical Differences: Your anatomy may be to blame, whether it’s the result of genetics, injury or something else. Being born with large tonsils or a uvula sets more obstacles in your airways.
- Age: As you get older, your muscle tone often goes down and your throat can get smaller. This is why you might start snoring in middle age, even if you didn’t as a young adult.
- Family History: Your genes tend to dictate where you gain weight, the size of your airways, even how you sleep at night. This means that if one or both of your parents snore, you’re more likely to snore, too.
- Male Gender: Most men are born with narrower passageways than women. This puts them at a higher risk for snoring.
- Sleep Apnea: Some people snore because they actually quit breathing for brief periods of time, a condition known as sleep apnea. People who have sleep apnea may have snores that sound like gasping, or other problems getting a good night’s rest. Sleep apnea can be a sign of bigger issues, so it’s important to seek a medical diagnosis and treatment plan.
Snoring vs Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Experts estimate that as many as half of snorers actually suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). If someone has OSA, it means that their tongue or soft palate push back against their throat as they sleep. This can block the airway and stop air from coming in. Usually, the body will force the person to wake up due to the lack of air. People who have OSA may have symptoms other than snoring, such as:
- Daytime sluggishness
- Headaches in the morning
- Waking up gasping or choking
OSA is bad enough by itself, but it can also contribute to high blood pressure or heart disease. Talk to your doctor if you experience any of these problems along with snoring.
Simple Tips to Stop Snoring
Most people can cut down on their snoring (or get rid of it entirely) by making a few lifestyle changes. Many of these are related to unique causes, so be sure to try the ones most likely to address your unique situation.
- Sleep on your side: Side-sleeping with a pillow that supports your neck keeps your airway open to an ideal position. You can even get special pillows or pajamas that help to keep you in the right position, if you’re not used to it.
- Manage colds and allergies: Cut down on the stuffiness before you hit the sack. Use allergy medications consistently and correctly, and consider a nasal rinse. Vacuum the dust from your bedroom regularly, but give it time to settle. If you must blow your nose, do it gently to avoid irritating your nasal tissues.
- Evaluate daily medications: While you may not be able to quit taking important medications, it’s worth consulting your doctor about alternatives that are less sedating.
- Exercise: Getting regular exercise is a good way to stay in shape (or lose weight) and keep your muscles toned. Just 15-30 minutes a day might be all you need.
- Keep a good sleep routine: Since being too tired makes your muscles slacken even more, sticking to your sleep routine can get you back to normal. If you get enough rest every night, you’ll have more energy for the rest of the day.
- Cut back on alcohol: You might think drinking helps you sleep, but it tends to make for a disrupted night. Minimize your alcohol consumption in the evening and drink more water instead.
- Stop smoking: Quitting smoking creates so many benefits for your respiratory system, and less snoring is only one of them.
Products to Help With Snoring
You don’t have to feel like you are on your own to fight the snoring. These products can help to open your airways or prevent obstruction.
- Humidifiers: Dry air irritates your nose and throat and could trigger snoring, especially in the winter. A simple humidifier can make the air just moist enough.
- Air purifiers: If you suffer from environmental allergies, an air purifier with a HEPA filter may filter out most of the worst offenders.
- Nasal strips: These adhesive strips look a little like band-aids. They stick to your nose and pull the nostrils open slightly. They are intended for single-use, but might be a quick solution.
- Nasal dilators: You can buy plastic clips or small conical-shaped tubes that help to keep your nasal passageways from collapsing.
Medical Help to Stop Snoring
If these behavioral changes and products don’t seem to solve the problem, you may want to consider asking your doctor for more assistance. This might involve a sleep study or a professional consultation with a sleep medicine expert. The result could provide a more permanent solution to the cause of your snoring.
- Oral appliances for snoring (sleep apnea mouthpiece) : If you go to a qualified dentist, you can have a custom sleep apnea mouthpiece designed and built just for you. This mouthpiece could hold your jaw slightly forward, preventing it from obstructing your airway while you sleep.
- CPAP Therapy: If you have Obstructive Sleep Apnea, you might need to use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. This device attaches to your nose and mouth and maintains a continuous flow of air all night.
- Septoplasty: People who have a deviated septum through birth or injury can have it straightened surgically.
- Somnoplasty: This procedure relies on lasers to tighten the tissues, making the airway larger.
- Tonsillectomy: Removal of the tonsils and adenoids eliminates them as an obstruction. It is a common treatment plan for young children with sleep apnea.
Snoring affects as much as 45 percent of the adult population, but it doesn’t have to ruin your night. If you schedule a consultation with one of our dental sleep medicine experts here at Premier Sleep Associates, you can discover how to put your snoring to bed for good. Call us at (425) 698-1732 today.