You’ve heard the jokes:
“A marriage is always made up of two people who are prepared to swear that only the other one snores.”
“The person who snores always falls asleep first.”
“I don’t snore.”
—People who snore
Jokes aside, snoring is no laughing matter. It coule signal an underlying illness. But if you’ve ruled out medical causes, you probably just want to know how to stop snoring, immediately.
Some of the most popular approaches are side-sleeping, avoiding sleeping pills, and sleeping on a schedule.
With no underlying illness, snoring is nothing but noisy breathing during sleep. It is common among all ages and genders, and it affects about 90 million American adults, 37 million on a regular basis.
Those most likely to snore are males or anyone overweight. After you fall asleep, snoring starts when the muscles of your throat, soft palate and tongue relax. Your tongue falls backward, and your throat loses muscle tone, making it floppy.
Once the walls of your throat are loose, they begin to vibrate as you breathe. The greatest vibration usually occurs with the inward breath. That’s the loudest part of the snore cycle. A less impressive snore is produced when you breathe out.
The vibrations are the key to the universally recognized sound of snoring, the kind represented in writing by a series of zzzzzz’s. The narrower your airway becomes, the greater the vibration and the louder the snoring.
“Snoring is a sign that there is a really narrowed space,” Dr. Sanjay Patel, a sleep disorder specialist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, told Harvard Men’s Health. “That happens either in your nasal passages or in the back of your throat.”
Sometimes the walls of the throat lose so much muscle tone that they collapse completely during sleep and block the passage of air. This creates a condition called obstructive sleep apnea, meaning breathing repeatedly stops and restarts.
OSA is a potentially dangerous condition that requires diagnosis and treatment by a physician, preferably a sleep specialist.
Snoring doesn’t necessarily mean you have sleep apnea. But the odds that you do are greater than you might think, British sleep consultant Tim Quinnell of Papworth Hospital told the Daily Mail. “Most people with sleep apnea snore.”
An estimated 3 out of 10 men and 2 out of 10 women who routinely snore have OSA or are at risk for it, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine said. The chances of having OSA go up as you grow older. The same is true of snoring, since the aging process causes a decrease in muscle tone in the throat.
Snoring is, however, far from being an older person’s problem. Physical abnormalities in the nose and throat can contribute to snoring at any age.
Some physical traits that make snoring more likely are:
* Enlarged tonsils or adenoids
* Nasal polyps
* Deviated nasal septum
* Inflammation of the nose or throat, as during a cold or allergy season
Risk factors that can vary over time include:
* Sleep position, such as on your back
* Drinking alcohol in the evening
* Taking muscle relaxants
* Obesity, especially with a lot of fatty tissue around the neck
Additional warning signs of sleep apnea are:
* Chronic daytime sleepiness
* Headaches on getting up in the morning
* Recent weight gain
* Feelig unrested after waking up
* Waking up at night feeling confused
* Reduced ability to pay attention or remember things
* Observed pauses in breathing during sleep
It is unusual for snorers to figure out for themselves that they sound like a chainsaw at night. Occasionally, an apnea sufferer might wake at night gasping for breath. A more reliable indicator is a bed partner’s observations.
If you have some of the warning signs of sleep apnea, it’s time to report your concerns to your primary care provider. Expect them to take a history, so a physical exam and give an opinion about whether you would benefit from consulting a specialist.
Sleep-medicine specialists can determine if you need a sleep study to diagnose or rule out sleep apnea and determine whether it affects the quality of your sleep,
A sleep specialist’s suggestions for eliminating or reducing snoring might go like this:
* Lifestyle changes, like side-sleeping, allergy treatment or weight loss.
* Surgery, as on back of throat, roof of mouth or nose.
* Appliances, especially oral appliances constructed by a dentist specializing in snoring and sleep apnea. Other equipment might include nasal dilators.
* Sleeping with a CPAP machine and mask. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure keeps the airway open, at least in theory. Unfortunately, about half of all CPAP patients stop using the device within three weeks because they don’t like it.
* Using a special pillow designed to get patients to sleep on their sides all night, not their backs. A recent study showed that the pillow approach has some merit.
“By using a pillow to change the head position, it is possible to reduce both subjective and objective snoring severity,” the researchers wrote in the journal Sleep and Breathing. The study included only snorers who did not have obstructive sleep apnea.
Another non-prescription remedy for snoring did not hold up so well to scientific scrutiny. Chinstraps are sold without prescription as a way to stop snoring by preventing breathing through the mouth. A recent study found that they provided no relief from snoring or apnea.
“A chinstrap alone is not an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. It does not improve sleep-disordered breathing, even in mild OSA,” the researchers wrote in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. “It is also ineffective in improving snoring.”
Even if one treatment proves discouraging, it is worth the effort to try others, because a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea is a warning to find a solution or risk the consequences. Untreated, it causes daytime dysfunction and increases your risk for vascular disease.
Snorers with mild symptoms who wake up feeling rested and function well during the day may prefer to try Some DIY approaches before consulting a doctor.
Some self-care approaches for snorers are:
-Dropping pounds, to reduce the amount of fat around the neck and increase the size of the airway behind the tongue.
-Avoiding tranquilizers and sleeping pills at night.
-During the four hours before bedtime, eliminating heavy meals or snacks, as well as alcohol, which acts as a sedative, relaxing muscle tone at the back of the throat.
-Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule.
-Sleeping on their side, not their back.
About one-third of adults reported snoring at least a few times a week, according to a the Sleep Foundation’s survey. One-fourth said they snore every night or nearly so. Men were more likely to snore than females to snore at least a few nights each week.
There are many reasons people snore, according to a self-care website maintained by the Australian Department of Health.
Drinking alcohol – As a muscle relaxant, alcohol can slacken throat tissues while you sleep. “We see this all the time,” Patel said. “Spouses say the snoring is tolerable except for the nights when their partner has had a couple of beers.”
Smoking – People who snore are often advised not to smoke, but evidence for the connection is weak. On the other hand, How many reasons does a person need to stop smoking?
Being overweight – Extra fat tissue in the neck and throat can narrow the airways. Losing weight could help open the throat if the person is overweight, although many lean people also snore.
Cold, sinus or allergy problems – Mucus constricts the nasal airways. Before bed, rinse stuffy sinuses with saline. If you have allergies, reduce dust mites and pet dander in your bedroom or use an allergy medication. If swollen nasal tissues are the problem, a humidifier or medication may reduce swelling.
Sleeping on your back – When you lie on your back, slack tissues in the upper airways may droop and constrict breathing. Sleeping on your side may alleviate this. You can also try raising your torso with an extra pillow or by propping up the head of the bed a few inches. Medications – Medications that relax muscles can make snoring worse. For example, tranquilizers such as lorazepam (Ativan) and diazepam (Valium) can have this effect. In contrast, antihistamines may actually alleviate snoring by reducing nasal congestion.
Pregnancy – Many pregnant women start snoring because of nasal congestion, the increase in abdominal girth, and the uterus pressing on the diaphragm. Nearly one-third of pregnant women snore because of increased swelling in their nasal passages, which can block airways. Snoring can also lead to high blood pressure, which can put both the mother and fetus at risk. If the blockage is severe, sleep apnea may result.
“A recent study of 502 women reported that snoring pregnant women had a twofold greater incidence of hypertension, preeclampsia, and intrauterine growth restriction than did non-snorers,” says Dr. Jennifer Santiago, an obstetrician at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
After bringing baby home, should the mother transfer her concerns to the bundle of joy? If your child is snoring it may be because they are overweight or their tonsils are enlarged.
If it’s the latter, your doctor may suggest anti-inflammatories to reduce the size of their tonsils, or surgical removal.
If your child’s snoring is irritating members of the household, a sleep study might be recommended to explore causes.
Childhood snoring is more prevalent than most parents know, according to a study in Hong Kong focusing on children aged 6 to 12. The study, published recently in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, found that one in eight children is an habitual snorer.
“The study has highlighted a much-neglected area of child health,” says Dr. Daniel Ng Kwok-Leung, a pediatrician at Kwong Wah Hospital, who led the research. Few parents understand that snoring, even in children, can be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea.
With or without the presence of apnea, poor sleep quality from snoring can cause children to experience restlessness, poor memory and behavior problems.
“Habitual snoring is common in children and teenagers. But most people just neglect the problem unless they see the child struggle to breathe,” says Ng. “They think the child has just [inherited the snoring habit] from the father who snores regularly. In fact, both father and child may have OSA.”
An entire industry has grown up around the desire by millions of people to stop snoring. Do an internet search for “stop snoring,” or something similar, and watch how many ads and listings appear. A lot.
If you decide to try one of them and must buy from an unfamiliar seller, do a search or two about them. My unscientific approach is to do a search for the name of the company or product, followed by “complaints”.
Be sure you are protected by a solid return policy if the treatment doesn’t work. Very often, the treatment won’t.
Many products claim to alleviate snoring, though some are careful to specify that they cannot help apnea. You may have seen the websites for some of these products. They promote the supposed cure with a barrage of anecdotal evidence extolling its worth. But few are backed by solid research.
When less-expensive options fail, it may be worth considering a specialized mouth appliance. The mouthpieces are designed to pull the jaw and tongue slightly forward to keep the upper airway open.
A dentist-made, custom mouth appliance can easily set you back $2,000 or more. Any changes in your bite, such as through dental work, would necessitate a new appliance. Insurance coverage is worth investigating.
An alternative for snorers who are unready to drop a wad of Benjamins, non-prescription kits are available for devices that use the same principle ( https://www.sleepassociation.org/top-anti-snoring-mouthpieces-mouth-guards-reviews/ ).
The so-called boil-and-bite variety are made with materials that become malleable when heated in water. When the consumer bites down on the heated material and follows instructions, a custom fit is promised.
How well the boiling process and materials combine to accomplish a clinically effective fit could be the topic of another Burstology blog. But there is no question the price is right, or at least righter, with oral devices selling for an average of $100.
On the lower end of the price spectrum for DIY mouthpieces are those that do not offer customization. Another variable to consider is whether the appliance allows the consumer to adjust how far the device advances the jaw to help prevent the airway from collapsing.
Again, you would be wise to study the return and refund policies before filling out the order forms. A hundred dollars here, a hundred there, pretty soon you’re talking about real money.
Some snorers swear by nasal-dilating strips. As affordable and harmless as they are, there is a low risk in trying them. Even better, some small studies suggest they may provide relief to some. You apply these adhesive strips across your nose at bedtime to help to open up the nasal passages.
If you are unsure what to do about snoring, a physician can advise you how to approach it, after getting a reading on whether the snores stem from an underlying illness, like apnea.
“The louder the snoring, the more likely it is be related to sleep apnea,” Dr. Patel said. “Not all men who snore have sleep apnea, but if the snoring is frequent, loud, or bothersome, they should at least be evaluated.”
One no-cost approach with promising results involves specialized exercises that strengthen muscles in the mouth and tongue, according to research reported in CHEST.
A study found that people who did an eight-minute series of exercises three times daily for three months reduced how often they snored by more than a third and the loudness by nearly two-thirds. The control group that wore nasal dilators saw minimal improvements.
The exercises improved snoring symptoms among snorers with no underlying illness, as well as those with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, reported Vanessa Ieto of the sleep lab at the University of São Paulo, Brazil.
If non-invasive approaches fail to provide relief from snoring, you might want to investigate whether you are a candidate for a surgical procedure and what the chances of success might be.
Surgical approaches to snoring include shortening the uvula; stiffening the soft palate, and reducing the amount of throat tissue.
In LAUP, or laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty, physicians uses a carbon dioxide laser to shorten the uvula (the small piece of soft tissue hanging in the back of the throat). They make small cuts in the soft palate on either side of the uvula. As the nicks heal, the surrounding tissue stiffens.
Palatal implants, also called the Pillar procedure, involve implanting up to three matchstick-sized plastic stiffening rods into the soft palate. The rods help prevent collapse of the soft palate.
Somnoplasty, which also goes by radiofrequency tissue volume reduction, uses radio waves to heat and shrink the soft tissue that vibrates during snoring. It takes a few minutes to perform and doesn’t cause bleeding. It may, however, have to be repeated.
Surgeries have their promoters and detractors. The co-founder of the British Snoring and Sleep Apnea Association, Marianne Davey, favors oral appliances. She believes that reports of surgeries having even modest success rates are exaggerated.
“Even if it is successful, the snoring can easily come back because our bodies change as we get older,” she says.
“My advice is to do everything you can to avoid an operation, and if you are thinking about it then you must have an endoscopy [tiny camera down your throat] first to establish if your snoring is throat-based or tongue-based.”
The difference is that, in throat-based snoring, the tissues in the airway itself are the culprit. Tongue-based snoring involves the tongue dropping to the back of the throat, blocking the airway.
“Surgery has limited research evidence to support its effectiveness,” says Tim Quinnell. “It may help a minority, but success is not guaranteed and improvement is often only temporary.”
Quinnell says the surgeries sometimes have unintended effects, such as the voice changing. He doesn’t say in which direction.
As new surgical techniques are introduced, it’s anyone’s guess how effective they might prove to be.
The motivation to find a cure for snoring is multiplied for couples. When one spouse snores and the other is a light sleeper, the stress on the relationship would be tough to overstate.
If all approaches fail to curtail snoring, a marriage-saving solution has been developed by, of all people, real estate developers. The houses meet an important need in the market by including so-called snoring rooms
“As wealth increases, demand for comfort increases, and it’s now pretty commonplace, with most developers incorporating a second master into their plans,” says London real-estate executive Peter Brookes.
Spouses aren’t necessarily the only family member to suffer from loud snoring. When I was 10, my family took a three-week camping trip to Yellowstone National Park, towing behind us a small tent-trailer to accommodate the seven of us.
One of my most vivid memories from the trip was not the Old Faithful geyser, but this was something just as reliable: my father’s epic snoring. It soared to decibel levels so stratospheric, it frequently awakened the rest of us in the tiny tent-camper.
Come to think of it, the combination of snoring and forced togetherness may explain why none of us kids has chosen to carry on the family’s wholesome tradition of camping.