Nearly everyone is guilty of the occasional snore while sleeping, but a portion of people regularly snore. According to surveys, roughly a quarter of the population habitually snores during the night. This means a large part of the U.S. is making a lot of noise while they sleep. This noise is the result of air flowing past relaxed tissues in the throat, causing them to vibrate. Snoring can disturb your bed partner and may signify serious health issues.
If you snore during the night, you may experience any or all of these symptoms:
- Loud noise while sleeping
- Extreme daytime fatigue
- Insomnia or restless sleep
- Night chest pain
- Sore throat
- Trouble breathing during sleep, resulting in gasping or choking
- High blood pressure
- Heart palpitations
- Difficulty concentrating
If your partner complains about the decibel level of your snores, or if you gasp or feel choked while sleeping, you should see a doctor. There may be a more serious issue like obstructive sleep apnea related to your snores.
Risk Factors for Snoring
We all have the ability to snore, but some of us are more apt to snore. You are more likely to snore if:
- You are a man.
- You are overweight.
- You regularly drink alcohol (Your throat muscles relax when you drink alcohol, which can put you at risk for snoring. Keep alcoholic beverages to a moderate level to lessen your chances of snoring).
- You have a narrow airway or other nasal problems (A structural flaw in your airway, like a deviated septum, can lead to chronic congestion, which often results in snoring).
- You have snorers in your family (Heredity can affect whether or not you snore at night).
Snoring Tests and Diagnosis
You should see a doctor if your partner complains about the decibel level of your snores, or if you gasp or feel choked while sleeping. There may be a more serious issue like obstructive sleep apnea related to your snores. When you visit your doctor, you will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. You will also receive a physical exam. It is a good idea to bring your partner to your appointment, as he or she can often provide useful details on the quality of your snoring and breathing during sleep. Imaging tests like X-rays may be performed, and in some cases a CT scan or MRI if your doctor suspects a structural airway issue.
If you are snoring severely, your doctor may wish to perform a sleep study. Sleep studies can take place in a sleep lab or at home for your convenience.
Treatments for Snoring
To lessen your snoring, your doctor will most likely suggest you make lifestyle changes like weight loss or a change in sleeping position. If these do not prove successful, your doctor may provide one of the following treatments:
- Oral appliance - This is a mouthpiece worn to keep your tongue forward in the mouth and your airway open.
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) - This treatment involves wearing a mask over the nose through which pressurized air is pumped from a small nearby machine.
- Palatal implants - This procedure involves braided polyester strands injected into your soft palate to stiffen it and lessen snoring.
- Traditional surgery or laser surgery - This may involve tightening or trimming excess tissues in the throat. Doctors can also remove excess tissue using lasers.
Consequences of Snoring
Much like the symptoms, the consequences of snoring can alter your day-to-day life, as the activity can leave you feeling unrested and tired. Snoring can also lead to:
- Relationship issues with your bed partner
- A greater risk of car accidents
- A higher risk of hypertension, stroke, and heart failure
Lifestyle Changes for Snoring
A few simple habit changes can have powerful results when it comes to quieting snores. These changes include:
- Losing weight - Extra fat around the throat can contribute to snoring.
- Limit alcohol use and sleep aids - Try not to drink alcohol at least two hours before sleeping. Both alcohol and sleep aids encourage the throat muscles to relax.
- Nasal strips - Nasal strips placed on the nose often help open airways and decrease snoring.
- Sleep on your side - Your tongue tends to fall backward when you lie on your back to sleep. Lying on your side can encourage more airflow throughout your throat.
Alternative Remedies for Snoring
There are myriads of products available to help stop snoring, but there are also alternative therapies that can often prove effective. These include:
- Singing - Singing can help you better control the muscles of your soft palate and throat. As little as 20 minutes a day singing may lead to less snoring at night.
- A hot shower - Taking a hot shower before bed can help open up your nasal passages.
- Acupuncture - This ancient remedy has proven to relieve nasal blockage due to sinus problems, which often lead to snoring.
- Keeping a humidifier in your bedroom - Dry air can irritate your nose and throat, resulting in snoring.
- Staying hydrated - This keeps fluid in the nose and soft palate from growing thick and sticky, potentially irritating you while you sleep.
A recent study published in the journal SLEEP reported that snoring and certain side effects of insomnia like trouble falling asleep, can lead to metabolic complications. Problems with metabolism can result in weight gain and a higher risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Although insomnia and snoring are often unrelated, they can each leave you feeling extremely tired throughout your day.
To remedy insomnia, try these useful tips:
- Get on a regular sleeping and waking schedule.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Exercise regularly.
- Try not to nap. If napping is necessary, nap regularly and for the same amount of time every day.
- Stay away from alcohol and caffeine for several hours leading up to sleep.
- Get in bed only when you are sleepy.
- Avoid sedatives and sleeping pills.
This brain disorder involves faulty control of your own sleeping and waking. If you are the one in 3,000 Americans suffering from narcolepsy, you may experience extreme tiredness during your day, as many do with snoring. You may even inadvertently fall asleep at your desk. Stress can exacerbate narcolepsy. Narcolepsy and its interruptions to your daily life can be serious. If you have narcolepsy, ask your sleep specialist about treatment options, as narcoleptic symptoms can be controlled in many cases.
Snoring may be a simple breathing issue, or it may be a result of more serious health problems. If snoring is disrupting you or your partner, or if you have insomnia or narcolepsy, see a doctor as soon as possible. Treatments are out there, and better sleep may just be around the corner.