Has your partner started sleeping with earplugs? Are they always “accidentally” elbowing you in the middle of the night? If so, you may be one of the approximately 90 million Americans who snore on a regular basis.
Snoring isn’t just a nuisance to your partner, it’s a serious condition. Snoring is the sound of an obstructed airway and someone struggling to breathe while they sleep. It keeps you from getting the quality sleep you need for optimal physical and mental health.
If you’re always waking up feeling like you barely slept, snoring might be part of the problem. Even more concerning is that snoring is closely linked to a more serious sleep disorder, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). If you snore, there’s over an 80% chance you have OSA right now. The remaining 20% typically means you have a high likelihood of developing it in the near future.
If you have obstructive sleep apnea, you actually stop breathing while you sleep. How often you stop breathing and the duration of the pause in breathing, which can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, determine the level of severity of your sleep apnea. Breathing is obstructed when the throat muscles relax and block the airway or the tongue falls back against the soft palate, closing off the airway.
The connection between snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is clear and the louder the snoring, the more serious the sleep apnea is. If you or someone you know is snoring every night, it should be considered a serious warning sign. Snoring is an indicator that you’re either at risk for more serious diseases or are currently living with one or more of the diseases linked with OSA.
Diseases associated with obstructive sleep apnea include the following:
- Congestive heart failure
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Anxiety and depression
- Acid reflux (GERD)
- ADD / ADHD
- Asthma or COPD
- Chronic pain
Snoring is truly a symptom of a potentially life-threatening illness. Continue reading to discover snoring solutions so that you and your loved ones can finally get a great night’s sleep and help prevent more serious health issues.
Why Do You Snore?
The first step to solving your snoring problem is figuring out why you snore in the first place. If your snoring is loud, includes snorts or gasps, and your partner mentions that you stop breathing at times, or even if you’re just concerned that your snoring could be a sign of something more serious like sleep apnea contact us today for an appointment with a sleep specialist. Sleep apnea can be treated successfully, and asking for help is the first step to a better night’s rest.
If you’ve eliminated the possibility of something more serious, like obstructive sleep apnea, read on for a list of the many issues that can contribute to episodes of snoring. If your snoring is incredibly infrequent and soft or you’ve been tested and confirmed you don’t have obstructive sleep apnea, then here are some of the factors that may be causing it:
- Being overweight or pregnant
- Nasal structure issues (such as a deviated septum)
- Frequent consumption of alcohol or muscle relaxants
You might also snore if you’re suffering from allergies. If you have a lot of dust, pet hair, or other allergens floating around in your bedroom, a bit of spring cleaning might be in order. Outdoor seasonal allergies may contribute to snoring as well. If you’re not sure, or you want to explore treatment options, it never hurts to schedule a consultation with a sleep specialist.
What’s Wrong with Snoring?
Why is snoring such a big problem? If your partner doesn’t seem to mind, and you wake up feeling rested, do you really need to worry about it?
In short, yes, you do.
As we mentioned earlier, snoring can be indicative of a far more serious health problem. It can also increase your risk of experiencing various health issues. In addition to the serious diseases associated with obstructive sleep apnea mentioned earlier, here are additional well-known conditions associated with sleep apnea-induced snoring:
- Increased strain on the heart and enlargement
- Low blood oxygen levels, which can lead to the constriction of the blood vessels in the lungs
- Chronic headaches and migraines
Long-term snoring and poor sleep can also increase your chances of gaining weight and becoming obese. Obesity, in turn, brings about an increased risk for a variety of other illnesses, from diabetes to osteoporosis.
Best Snoring Solutions
Now that you know that snoring is more than a mere annoying habit, it’s time to take the next step for your health. If you snore more than occasionally, the best snoring solution may be to contact us for a complete evaluation.
To help with snoring that isn’t caused by a more serious issue like obstructive sleep apnea, lifestyle changes should be considered. The following are some popular and effective solutions that can help you to stop the occasional snoring episode:
If you’re overweight, losing weight could help to reduce or eliminate your snoring problem unless you have hereditary structural issues that cause obstructive sleep apnea. When you carry extra weight, the fat tissue in the neck and throat can cause the airway to become narrow. Losing weight can minimize that pressure and open up the airway in many people. However, it’s important to remember that losing weight alone will not cure obstructive sleep apnea. In fact, if you’ve experienced unexplained weight gain recently, it may be related to OSA. As many as 80-90% of people living with obstructive sleep apnea have not yet been diagnosed, and being overweight or obese is a significant risk factor. Consulting with a sleep specialist may be a good way to make sure that obstructive sleep apnea is not preventing you from reaching your weight maintenance goals.
Related: Does Exercise Help Sleep Apnea? Which Exercises Reduce Risk and Improve Symptoms
Change Your Sleep Position
Changing your sleeping position isn’t really a snoring “solution”. People who sleep on their backs are more likely to snore than people who sleep on their sides. In fact, people who snore naturally gravitate to the side sleeping position because it puts less pressure on the airway and will allow for slightly more air in. However, side sleeping certainly doesn’t put less pressure on your hips or shoulders and side sleepers tend to have issues with both as a result.
If you’re snoring, even just light or occasional snoring, you need to eliminate the possibility of having sleep apnea. An evaluation can determine if you do, and if you do, changing your sleeping position will potentially delay you from getting the treatment you need for this serious disorder.
If it’s determined you don’t have sleep apnea, but you still snore occasionally you can use pillows to keep you on your side during the night (if you’re getting complaints from your partner). If you can’t bring yourself to sleep on your side, try sleeping on your back with your head slightly elevated.
Just remember, if you’re already a side sleeper and you’re still snoring, it could be a sign of an obstructed airway. Side sleeping helps to open up the airway, but if you’re still snoring, you need to take additional measures to eliminate the possibility of sleep apnea.
Avoid Alcohol Before Bed
Some people are under the impression that alcohol is a sleep aid. That’s definitely not the case. In fact, while alcohol may render you unconscious if you drink enough of it (a condition that is dangerous to your health), that’s not the same as getting a restful night’s sleep. In fact, as little as a single alcoholic drink impairs your ability to achieve high-quality sleep. Medical News Today reported on a 2018 large-scale study: “Even as little as one drink was shown to impair sleep quality. Moderate alcohol consumption lowered restorative sleep quality by 24 percent, and high alcohol intake by as much as 39.2 percent.” Alcohol can also relax the muscles of the throat too much, which narrows the airway and leads to snoring and poor sleep quality.
To help with snoring, avoid alcohol at least three hours before bedtime, and steer clear of other muscle relaxants, too.
Quitting smoking should be a part of everyone’s snoring solution because it can improve your sleep quality and save your partner from having to listen to you snoring all night long. Smoking irritates and damages the airways, which can increase the likelihood that you’ll snore. It also increases your risk for a variety of other health problems. Finally, smoking is a known risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea, so if you’re a smoker, you may want to consider a sleep evaluation to make sure you haven’t developed this disorder.
If you think your snoring is caused by allergies, take steps to minimize allergen exposure. Deep clean your bedroom to get rid of dust, pet hair, and other irritants. You may want to invest in some air purifying plants, too. Make use of over-the-counter allergy medications to clear up sinus congestion, and try using saline nasal sprays or Neti pot to clear out the nasal passages before you head to bed.
Related: 8 Tips for Nighttime Allergy Relief
Use Nasal Dilating Strips
Nasal-dilating strips are an inexpensive snoring solution that can help to treat allergies and work wonders for some people who are nasal snorers. Simply apply the adhesive strip across your nose before bed to keep the nasal passages open and minimize the likelihood that you will begin breathing through the mouth and snoring when you fall asleep.
Wear a Mandibular Advancement Device or Vestibular Shield
A mandibular advancement device is worn inside the mouth. It helps to bring the tongue forward and keep it from blocking your airway while you sleep. Another option is a vestibular shield. Vestibular shields are also worn inside the mouth and keep it from falling open during the night. These are possible options for mild obstructive sleep apnea and should be used under proper supervision only to avoid a common complication of TMJ.
Use a CPAP Machine
A CPAP machine blows air into the back of the throat while you sleep which, in turn, keeps the airway open and prevents snoring and partial throat closures or obstructions. It’s the best way to also help resolve and prevent the associated diseases we mentioned like diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke.
If you’ve been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea in the past, or if you believe your snoring is a sign of something more serious like sleep apnea, then a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (or CPAP) machine is a wonderful solution. CPAP machines today are quiet and compact compared to models from even a few years ago. If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea and know it’s the cause of your snoring but haven’t used your CPAP in years, you may be eligible for a newer model and should make sure your settings are adjusted to apply to the severity of your issue today.
If you haven’t been diagnosed but believe you are suffering from sleep apnea, a CPAP machine can be the ultimate snoring solution. Come see us for a diagnosis, and our staff will fit you with the perfect model to ensure the best possible comfort.
Stop Snoring Today
As you can see, there are many different snoring solutions based on the severity of your symptoms. If you snore only occasionally, try to identify the causes and make a few lifestyle changes to minimize your snoring or stop it altogether. Lifestyle changes, such as lowering your alcohol intake or taking medication for allergies can be helpful, but they shouldn’t ever replace a proper evaluation to eliminate the possibility of obstructive sleep apnea. Snoring is the most common symptom of sleep apnea, and IS the sound of an obstructed airway. It’s a serious condition and isn’t a laughing matter.
If you’d like more guidance on which approach is right for you, we can help at Sleep Centers of Middle Tennessee. Contact us today to learn more about our services, find out about sleep studies, or schedule an appointment for an evaluation. We’ll help you find the right solution to your snoring so that you can sleep like a baby all night long.