Snore No More: How to Stop Snoring
Definition of Snoring
Snoring is the sound made by the movement of air over relaxed throat and tongue muscles in the respiratory passage while breathing. The sound may be soft and unnoticeable or it may be loud, unpleasant and disturbing.
Snoring may be the result of another sleep disorder — and may also cause sleep apnea. Sleep apnea means that there are periods during the snoring episode when you actually stop breathing for extended periods of time.
- Primary snoring. Also called simple or benign snoring because it happens without periods of apnea and does not create other health problems. In primary snoring, the snoring is continuous with upper airway sounds and the sleeper typically does not wake up — unless awakened by a sleep partner.
- Secondary Snoring. Occurs in the presence of another sleep disorder. This sleep disorder is typically obstructive sleep apnea. In secondary sleep apnea, the sufferer WILL usually awaken several times during the night as air is blocked, oxygen decreases and carbon dioxide increases.
Causes of Snoring: What are the various reasons for snoring?
Snoring, especially loud snoring, may be a sign that there is a problem in a person’s respiratory tract or airways. The structures commonly involved in snoring are the uvula and the soft palate. The soft palate is the soft part situated at the roof of the mouth. And the uvula is the fleshy tissue hanging from the centre of the soft palate and over the back of the tongue.
There are many reasons for why a person may start snoring. Some of the most common causes are:
- Obstruction in the nose and throat. This may be caused by structural abnormalities such as a deviated nasal septum or swollen adenoids. Allergies and infections that cause congestion and secretion of excessive mucus in the airways can also cause obstruction.
- Jaw position. Wrong position of the jaw due to too much tension of the muscles that control chewing and swallowing.
- Poor muscle tone or weakness of the throat and tongue. The throat may collapse and the tongue may fall back into the throat. This can be caused by muscle relaxing agents such as alcoholic beverages.
- Bulky throat tissue. Excess throat tissue such as that present in children with large tonsils and in overweight individuals. Obesity and weight gain are often accompanied by snoring.
- Respiratory trauma. Trauma to the organs involved in respiration such as a fractured nasal bone can also cause snoring issues.
- Snoring and sleep apnea. Snoring may also be a symptom of sleep apnea.
Risk factors for snoring and obstructive apnea include conditions you can control and conditions you cannot control.
Conditions You Can Control
- Obesity. Obesity is one of the risk factors for snoring and up to 33% of obese individuals have obstructive apnea. It is estimated that as many as 75% of people with obstructive sleep apnea are greater than 120% of their ideal body weight.
- Sleep schedule. If you are extremely tired due to an irregular sleep schedule, you are more likely to snore.
- Alcohol and Medications. Drinking alcohol or taking sleep medications may increase your chances of snoring.
- Smoking. Are you a smoker? If so, you are at a higher risk for snoring than a non-smoker. If you smoke, the amount you smoke will also increase your tendency to snore due to increased upper airway swelling and inflammation.
Conditions You Cannot Control
- How old you are. As you age, the muscles in your upper airway begin to lose tone. Between the ages of 40 and 64, the risk for snoring increases significantly.
- Gender also matters. Some studies show that 50% of men and 25% of women snore and 4% of men and 2% of women have significant obstructive sleep apnea indicating secondary snoring.
- Physical conditions. There are many physical conditions that can cause snoring: an exceptionally thick neck or large tongue, large tonsils or adenoids in children, tumors or polyps in the upper airway, and deformities of the nose, septum or upper airway.
- Allergens and infections. Allergies and upper airway infections can also cause swelling of the upper airway leading to an increased risk for snoring.
Health Risks of Snoring
There have been many jokes about snoring but it’s no laughing matter. It’s a serious problem with very serious and unhealthy effects. Snoring not only affects the sleeping partner but also affects the snorer in many negative ways.
Avoid snoring because of its serious health effects. Some of the health risks of snoring are:
- Obstructive sleep apnea is frequently associated with chronic or long-term snoring. Sleep apnea is a condition wherein the person frequently stops breathing or takes shallow breaths during sleep. This can happen as much as thirty times per hour of sleep. Habitual snorers often wake up without realizing it. They also unconsciously sleep light to prevent their throats from relaxing too much.
- Sleep deprivation due to snoring can be dangerous. It can cause daytime drowsiness that may interfere with the person’s work, irritability, lack of focus, and even a decreased sexual appetite.
- It can also cause lowered blood oxygen levels at night. Which then forces the heart to work harder. This can lead to heart disease.
Treatments: Solutions to Stop Snoring
Management and prevention of snoring requires a multi-disciplinary approach. This may include the involvement of a physician specializing in sleep disorders, an otolaryngologist or a doctor specializing in ear, nose, and throat conditions, a dentist or orthodontist, an herbalist and even a psychologist. There are various ways available to help reduce or stop snoring. Some of the snoring fixes that provide relief are as follows.
Tips to Reduce Snoring
The severity of snoring can be reduced by various methods and techniques. Almost all of these techniques involve removal of the cause of blockage to the throat. Some of the techniques which can be used to prevent and stop snoring:
- Alternative sleeping positions. Sleeping on the side, stomach and sleeping on your back with the head and shoulders raised at an angle prevents the soft palate and the tongue from collapsing into the back of the throat.
- Breathing right during sleep. Sleeping with the mouth closed prevents the uvula from vibrating while breathing.
- Exercise. Exercises to stop snoring are geared toward strengthening the muscles of the face, tongue and throat. Some research has been done that shows that tongue and throat exercises may be effective in strengthening muscles of the upper airway that have gotten flabby. Do each of these exercises three times a day for three minutes each. Say the alphabet out loud. Slide your tongue backward and forward in your mouth. Move your lower jaw slowly from right to left. Open your mouth and contract your throat muscles. In addition, yoga in the form of breathing exercises can also be done to reduce snoring. Even the stretching exercises done in yoga can help stop snoring.
Best Snoring Cures and Home Remedies
Looking for ways to stop snoring naturally should be the first step when attempting to treat snoring. Changes in diet and lifestyle can go a long way to prevent, reduce, and stop snoring.
- Weight loss helps by decreasing the bulk of tissues surrounding the throat. Weight loss can be achieved in many different ways but one must remember that losing weight requires commitment. It cannot be achieved in a short span of time.
- Quitting smoking is another natural way to stop snoring. Smoking causes the muscles surrounding the throat to lose their tone. It can even cause the growth of tissue that blocks the airways. Polyps for example.
- Avoid or minimize drinking alcoholic beverages and sedatives. These can cause the over-relaxation of muscles in the throat.
- Avoid eating a large meal and taking milk and dairy products right before bedtime. It can sometimes cause congestion and excessive mucus production in the nose.
- Try to keep to a regular sleep schedule. Poor sleep habits can cause a person to be overtired which may contribute to snoring.
Some natural snoring remedies include: ginger, wild yam, kava, oak bark, Oregon grape root, and valerian, chamomile tea, and peppermint and marjoram oil. In addition, there are various herbal mixes available in the form of teas, oils, and tablets that are readily available in the market.
Herbs help in two ways; first, they improve the quality of sleep and second, they keep the airways clear and open. The advantages of using herbal treatment are:
- Symptomatic relief
- Strengthened immune system
- Clears causes of negligible side effects
- Long-term natural and health benefit
Hypnosis is another alternative technique that deals with snoring. Hypnotherapy has been used as a means to alter “behaviour-associated” conditions such as alcoholism and smoking. You can either consult with a hypnotherapist or perform self-hypnosis on yourself. There are several self-hypnosis tutorials available on the internet. Reviews on this type of treatment option have been varied.
Other Snoring Treatment Options
Other methods that eliminate snoring are:
- Humidifiers. Humidifiers keep the air moist, thereby, preventing irritation to the air passages. This helps to avoid nasal congestion.
- Minimizing dust and allergens. Keep the sleeping area free from dust and allergens. This will prevent congestion of the airways and reduce or stop snoring.
- Throat or nasal sprays. Sprays may have different contents that can help with snoring. Corticosteroid sprays relieve nasal congestion. Other sprays contain lubricants to help keep the nasal passages open.
- Nasal strips. These are lubricant strips that help keep the airways open.
Anti-Snoring Devices & Snoring Prevention Devices
There are several FDA-approved devices and products that can be used as snoring sleep aids. Most can be bought over the counter at your local drugstore. However, there are some devices you should be carefully with. One must understand the principle behind the device.
- Anti-snoring pillows. The principle behind anti-snoring pillows is the proper positioning of the head, neck and shoulders to prevent the airways from collapsing and also to prevent the tongue from falling back into the throat. There are many pillows with different shapes and materials available for you to purchase. You should consult with your physician to help choose the best anti snoring pillow for your particular snoring case.
- Anti-snoring ring. There has been conflicting reviews about the efficacy of this device. Manufacturers claim that the principle behind it is acupressure. This could be a placebo effect in many cases, but in others there could be a logical explanation. The constant pressure on the little finger causes the wearer to sleep lightly, thereby preventing over-relaxation of the throat muscles. This explain why the effect seems to wear off when it is used continuously. The wearer becomes accustomed to the pressure, after which it no longer has any effect. This may be a temporary solution.
- Anti-snoring bracelet and anti-snoring watch. There are an anti-snoring bracelet that delivers a small electric charge to the wrist when the person starts to snore.
- Anti-snoring mouthpiece, mouthguard, and nightguard.
Also known as dental appliances or mandibular advancement splints, these are devices that bring the lower jaw forward, elevate the soft palate, or keep the tongue from falling back in the airway. Custom made devices are typically more comfortable and work better than those you can buy over the counter; however, the difference in cost can be tremendous. Over the counter devices can cost as little as $10 while custom devices can cost as much as $2000. If you have the money, you should consider a custom device that will last longer, be more comfortable, and work better.
- Snoring chin strap, head strap, or headband.
These devices work by the same principle as a mouthpiece. They keep the lower jaw closed and in a forward position. They are fabric cups fitted to the chin with straps that go over the head. They act externally as jaw supporters.
- MegaVent. This is a soft plastic support for the nostrils to help keep them open and ease airflow.
- Nose patches and nose clips. These follow the same principle as the MegaVent by keeping the nostrils open and supported.
Medical and Surgical Options
Medical and surgical techniques are being refined all the time and your healthcare provider can help direct you to the most appropriate treatment for your particular problem.
For children with swollen tonsils or adenoids, a tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy might be considered; most pediatricians recommend waiting to see if the child will “outgrow” the problem rather than resorting to a surgical solution.
For adults, there are several types of surgery that might be done to cure snoring:
- CPAP machine and snoring mask.
A CPAP device is a breathing mask, worn when you sleep, that blows pressurized air into your nose and face that forces your upper airway open. If you can tolerate it, this treatment is very effective for many people; however, many people report feeling “smothered” when using the CPAP machine.
- Snoring medications. These include medicines that prevent nasal congestion, medicines that keep the air passages moist and supple and medicines that keep the muscles of the throat from too much relaxation.
- Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) and Laser Assisted Uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP). In UPPP, the surgeon removes excess tissue in the throat with a scalpel. LAUP is the same procedure using a laser. These two surgeries involve removal of tissue from the back of the throat such as the uvula and soft palate to widen the airways. Complications include bleeding and hematoma and scarring that can cause a more severe obstruction.
- Radiofrequency Palatoplasty. This method uses an electrical current to shrink the back part of the roof of the mouth (the soft palate). Surgery to correct other problems (polyps, nasal septum deviation, etc.) can also be considered.
- Pillar procedure. A minimally invasive procedure done under local anaesthesia that inserts Dacron strips into the uvula and soft palate using a modified syringe. Dacron is a material used in permanent sutures. It gives the uvula and soft palate firmness that keeps the vibrations minimal during breathing.
Surgical treatment for snoring should usually be reserved for those very severe cases that do not respond to the home remedies or medical treatment and that are causing health issues. Results of surgical correction are varied — some people have very good outcomes while others see minimal benefits.
Live with Snoring
How to Live with Snoring
You’ve tried all the treatments and you still snore. Your sleeping partner is ready to move out of the room. What else can you do? The short answer: learn to live with the snoring!
Remember that snoring is a physical condition that you are NOT choosing to continue. If you are working to control all of the factors that may be causing the snoring, it is time to talk to your sleep partner and try to figure out how you can work together to help both of you get a better night’s sleep.
If your partner is sleep deprived, it will begin to show in your relationship. Is your partner willing to try ear plugs? Can s/he use headphones to listen to music instead of your snoring? Is your partner willing to gently remind you to change sleep positions when you are snoring? Remember, a sense of humor can help both of you deal with the snoring.
Some Facts About Snoring
Do you snore or are you at risk for snoring?
The National Sleep Foundation estimates that approximately 90 million people snore at least occasionally. Other studies estimate that as many as 45% of normal adults snore at least occasionally and 25% snore often.
Did you know that snoring in men is twice as common as snoring in women?
Research can back up this fact. Men may snore more because of several factors. A Man’s neck is fleshier than women’s and the space at the back of the throat is wider, making the tongue more susceptible to falling backwards.
Did you know that snoring can cause marital problems?
For couples who sleep in the same bed, snoring can be a major stress factor? The non-snoring partner loses about an hour of sleep each night as a result of the snoring partner. The couple then wakes up sleep-deprived and grouchy in the mornings. This can cause frequent spats and quarrels. Snoring also decreases libido which can be a sore point in a marriage.
Did you know that snoring in newborn infants could be a sign of a depressed immune system?
Snoring in infants can be caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoidal tissues. This could result from allergies or immune-compromise. If your baby is snoring constantly and loudly, it might be a good idea to consult your paediatrician.
Snoring in children may sound cute and angelic but it can also be a sign of a serious medical problem. The snoring could be caused by congested airways that are the outcome of infection or asthma. It can also be the result of poorly developed facial structures and respiratory tract, or by obesity or passive smoking. If untreated, snoring in your child could lead to sleep deprivation and ultimately, failure to thrive.