Snoring is a noisy breathing that occurs as tissue vibrates in the upper airway during sleep. It is a growing condition that affects most people during their lives at some point in time.
It’s always harmless, and can be treated by home remedies. If these fail, care may be necessary. Snoring is often linked to a more severe health problem. It is best to see a doctor if snoring is noisy, or if there are other signs.
Fast facts about snoring
- Snoring is a common but treatable condition.
- It happens when turbulent air flows through the airway, causing the uvula and soft palate to vibrate.
- Snoring may be related to sleep apnea, which is a symptom of high blood pressure and other conditions.
- Men snore more often than women.
- Some home remedies and exercises can help prevent snoring.
The tissues in the throat and upper airways are open during waking hours for quick air intake into the lungs.
The soft tissues and tongue relax during sleep, and may partially block the airway.
When the air that comes in and out of the airway experiences some pressure, noise or snoring, it can happen.
Obesity, smoking, alcohol intake or experiencing chronic nasal inflammation all raise the risk of daily snoring. It is assumed that snoring affects 44 percent of males and 28 percent of females aged 30 to 60.
Snoring can indicate a medical condition such as:
- obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
- type 2 diabetes
- cardiovascular disease
- sinus or nasal problems
Snoring has been associated with a thickening of the carotid artery wall which carries blood to the brain. That can increase stroke risk.
Sleep apnea may cause some sort of snoring, where a person can appear to stop breathing between snores for some time, and they may produce sounds of coughing or gasping.
Apart from loud snoring, sleep apnea can lead to symptoms such as:
- daytime sleepiness
- morning headaches
- difficulty concentrating or remembering things
- low libido, or sex drive
Anyone having such symptoms should see a doctor, because sleep apnea may be a symptom of another disorder associated with it, such as high blood pressure, hypothyroidism and acromegaly.
Snoring and sleeping apnea also increases the risk of sleep disturbance. This can lead to tiredness and focus difficulties. This may also increase the risk of other mental health problems.
A medical or dental provider may help determine the underlying cause and the appropriate treatments to stop the snoring.
A number of remedies may help with snoring.
1. Avoiding alcohol and sedating medications
Depressant or sedative class drugs tend to relax the muscles and cause them to collapse. Alcohol is behaving like a depressant. Until sleep it should be stopped for at least 4 hours. Any prescription or over-the-counter sleep aids should be under a health care professional’s supervision.
2. Relieving nasal obstruction
Available medications and other techniques can help reduce the inflammation.
- nasal strips
- corticosteroid and moisturizing nasal sprays
- a room humidifier
Room humidifiers and other items can be purchased online.
3. Changing sleep positions
Position to sleep can influence the risk of snoring. Sleeping on your back can cause the airway to be blocked by relaxed tongue.
Other sleeping positions you can try include:
- sleeping on your side
- raising the head of the bed a few inches
- using a “anti-snore pillow” to improve neck position
Another idea is to put a tennis ball on the back of a person’s sleep shirt or other soft item. It can help avoid the roll to the sleeping position in the back.
4. Losing weight
In a person carrying excess weight, fat tissue can cover and narrow the airways and the obstructed airflow can result in snoring.
Losing weight may reduce the risk of snoring.
5. Oral appliances
A custom oral brace, similar to a retainer or a mouthguard, can help hold the airways open by gently pushing the tongue and jaw forward.
Appliances are made by a dentist with advanced training in sleep medicine.
6. Throat exercises
Exercises with throat, or oropharyngeal, can help strengthen weak, flabby muscles of the throat and prevent them from collapsing during sleep.
Request a minimum of 3 months to perform the 10 exercises below 30 minutes average.
- Stick your tongue as far as possible out of your mouth, then push it side by side and up and down without curling the tongue.
- Shift the jaw up and down for a minute or two at a time, in a chewing motion. This should be done in your mouth, without anything.
- Say every vowel again and again at least 20 to 30 times just before you go to sleep.
- Sing “la, la, la, la,” going up and down through different notes and pitches, before going on to “fa, fa, fa, fa” and eventually “ma, ma, ma, ma.”
- Open your mouth as wide as possible, and keep it open for about 10 seconds.
- Move your tongue tip against your mouth’s rim, and slip it 20 times backwards.
- Push your cheek muscle 10 times on either hand with your index finger, away from your teeth.
- Close the mouth and pinch the lips. Keep back 30 seconds.
- Switch jaw to the right with mouth open and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat to the left.
- Raise the palate and uvula twenty times.
Exercises need to be practiced consistently to see any results.
7. Quitting smoking
Tobacco smoke is an irritant, which can cause inflammation of the tissue. The upper airway is a narrow passage, which means that even small amounts of inflammation will restrict airflow.
Quitting smoking can help to reduce this inflammation, as well as the risk of other disorders and diseases.
8. Following good sleep hygiene practices
Build a good system of sleep hygiene by having regular sleep on a comfortable bed, in a cool, dark room. Lack of sleep has been related to weight gain and can contribute to snoring.
Some other advices to get a good night’s sleep include:
- following the same routine for going to sleep and waking up, even on the weekend
- using blinds or heavy curtains to keep out the light
- avoiding using a screen or mobile device close to bedtime, and keep all devices outside the room
If snoring is serious, or is related to sleep apea, care may be provided by a doctor.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
Treatment for people with moderate to serious obstructive sleep apnea includes supplying pressurized air through a nasal or face mask.
Medical treatment can be of use to serious snoring. There are some surgical procedures that can help minimize snoring if other treatments don’t work.
Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy: to remove the tonsils and adenoids that have been swollen.
Pillar procedure: A surgeon installs small plastic implants to stiffen loose tissue in the soft palate.
Septoplasty: This replaces a nasal septum that has deviated.
Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP): The soft palate and uvula extract excess tissue.
Somnoplasty: The aim of this procedure is to stiffen flabby tissue by applying radiofrequency energy to tongue base.
Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP): The uvula, which is the hanging soft tissue at the back of the throat, is shortened with a laser. In the soft palate, the laser makes tiny cuts too. The underlying tissues stiffen as the cuts heal to avoid the vibrations that cause snoring.
Surgery has a poor success rate, and possible health risks are present, and this should not be seen as a last resort.
Snoring may be a sign of a serious medical condition, but it may also be distracting and disruptive for the patient, the sleep partner, and other household members.
To seek care may be a step in the right direction for good overall health.