Help for the Occasional Snorer
| Posted On Nov 14, 2012 | By: Atrius Health
Sleeping in the same room with someone who snores can literally be exhausting. Occasional snoring, although a nuisance to those around you, is usually not a serious problem. However, if your snoring is habitual, it is not only disrupting the sleep of others, but it also impairs your own sleep quality and can be an indication of a more serious medical condition. Just what causes snoring, what can you do to stop occasional snoring, and when should you seek medical help?
What is Snoring?
Snoring occurs when there is an obstruction to the free flow of air through the passages at the back of the mouth and nose. This area is the collapsible part of the airway where the tongue and upper throat meet the soft palate and uvula. Snoring occurs when these structures strike each other and vibrate during breathing.
Causes of Snoring
- Bulky throat tissue – being overweight can cause excess soft tissue in the neck that can lead to narrowing of the airway.
- Obstructed nasal airways – some people only snore when their nasal passages get blocked up during allergy season or when they have a cold or sinus infection. A deviated septum (the wall that separates one nostril from the other is crooked) can also cause a breathing obstruction.
- Poor muscle tone in the throat and tongue – age, use of alcohol or some medications can cause the muscles of the throat and tongue to become too relaxed during sleep, allowing the tongue to fall back into the airway.
- Long soft palate and/or uvula – a long soft palate or a long uvula (the tissue that dangles in the back of the mouth) can narrow the opening from the nose to the throat and lead to obstruction and snoring.
Help for the Occasional Snorer
Adults who suffer from occasional snoring can try some self-help remedies:
- Sleep on your side rather than flat on your back. If this presents a challenge, try sewing a golf or tennis ball into the back of your nightclothes. When you roll over, this will remind you to stay on your side, and eventually sleeping on your side should become a habit.
- If you are overweight, try adopting a healthier lifestyle to develop good muscle tone and lose weight.
- Avoid tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and antihistamines before bedtime, as these medications can cause the throat to relax and result in snoring.
- Avoid alcohol for at least four hours and heavy meals or snacks for three hours before going to sleep.
- Make sure you get enough sleep and establish regular sleeping patterns by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
- If you smoke, seek help to quit. Smoking causes airways to be blocked by irritating the membranes in the nose and throat.
- Elevating the head of your bed may take some pressure off the airway, making breathing easier.
When to Seek Medical Attention for Your Snoring
Habitual or heavy snoring can be an indication of a serious health issue called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Heavy snorers include people who snore constantly in any position or who negatively impact a bed partner’s sleep. OSA is characterized by multiple episodes of breathing pauses greater than 10 seconds at a time, due to airway narrowing or collapse. If you experience any of the following, you should contact your doctor for a sleep evaluation:
- You wake up during the night choking and gasping for breath
- Your bed partner notices your breathing pauses during sleep
- You experience excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue
To rule out a more serious problem, your physician may refer you to a sleep specialist for a home-based sleep test using a portable monitor or an overnight stay at a sleep clinic. If a sleep study concludes that the snoring is not related to any sleeping or breathing disorders, you can discuss different treatment options to stop the snoring.