How to Stop Snoring? What Do Doctors Say
Excessive snoring means your airway is partially blocked due to a number of possible reasons, and you are not able to breathe properly. This issue can also impede your sleep quality, leading to fatigue, irritability, and an increased risk of health problems. Snoring can also significantly impact the quality of your sleep, leading to feelings of fatigue and irritability during the day.
Additionally, chronic snoring can increase your risk of developing several health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Therefore, it is crucial to identify the underlying cause of your snoring and seek appropriate treatment to avoid further complications and improve your quality of life.
Let’s dive in to discuss what causes this issue, and how you can manage it to have a better night’s sleep.
What Is Snoring?
Snoring is one of the most common sleep problems. It occurs when the air you breathe cannot pass freely through your nose and throat during sleep. This causes nasal tissues to vibrate, which produces the snoring sound.
Some people tend to have loose tissue in their nose and throat, which makes them prone to snoring. These “floppy” tissues can partially restrict airflow. Also, the position of your tongue can obstruct the airway while sleeping, and this can also produce the snoring sound.
Colds and allergies can cause nasal congestion and throat swelling, which can lead to snoring too. To alleviate snoring caused by colds and allergies, over-the-counter medications and good sleep hygiene practices such as sleeping on your side or elevating your head can be helpful. However, it is important to seek medical advice if snoring persists or worsens, as it may indicate an underlying medical condition.
Snoring not only affects your sleep, but can also disrupt your relationship with your sleeping partner. The sound of snoring can be loud and irritating, making it difficult for your partner to fall asleep or stay asleep. Over time, this can lead to feelings of frustration, irritability, and even resentment towards the snoring partner.
It’s important to identify the underlying cause and manage it so you can reduce the snoring and improve your (and your partner's) sleep quality. Let’s take a look at the different causes of snoring:
Which Are the Causes of Snoring?
Snoring is a common problem that can have a significant impact on sleep quality and overall health. In this article, we'll explore some of the most common causes of snoring to help you identify and address the issue.
With advancing age, the muscles in our throat become weaker, and the airway passage in the throat becomes narrower—thus increasing the likelihood of snoring. Older individuals are also more prone to health conditions like obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Therefore, they can have a higher chance of becoming snorers.
Additionally, age-related hormonal changes can contribute to snoring. For example, post-menopausal women have a higher risk of weight gain, changes in sleep patterns, and a decrease in muscle tone, all of which can increase the risk of snoring.
Accumulation of excess body fat in the neck area can restrict the airway, causing the tissues in the throat to vibrate. Thus, overweight people are more prone to snoring.
Obesity can also lead to obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. It is a condition characterized by loud snoring, gasping, or choking during sleep. It ruins the quality of your sleep and often leads to excessive daytime sleepiness and a depressed mood during the day.
Biological Differences Between Men and Women
If we look at the general population, men tend to have a larger neck circumference and a narrower airway than women, which can contribute to snoring. Also, men with low testosterone levels may develop this problem due to decreased muscle tone in the throat.
Women, on the other hand, are more likely to experience snoring during pregnancy or menopause, due to hormonal or serotonin imbalances and their effect on the airway.
Nasal and Sinus Problems
Nasal and sinus problems can also cause blockages and obstruction in the airways that lead to snoring. When the nasal passages are blocked due to allergies, congestion, or sinusitis, the air has to find a way through a smaller opening, which can cause a vibration of the soft tissues in the throat, causing you to snore.
The nasal passage can also get narrowed due to nasal polyps, and a deviated septum can increase the likelihood of snoring,
Alcohol, Smoking, and Medications
Alcohol causes the muscles in the throat to relax and become loose. These muscles vibrate when air passes through your throat while sleeping, creating a snoring sound. Additionally, alcohol can lead to dehydration, which can also contribute to this issue.
As for smoking, the chemicals in cigarettes irritate the throat lining and cause inflammation, leading to swelling and narrowing of the airway. This obstruction in the airway can contribute to snoring, as well as increase the risk of developing sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder that causes breathing interruptions during sleep.
In addition, certain medications, such as sedatives, sleep medicine, antidepressants, muscle relaxants, medicine for a psychiatry-related condition, and antihistamines, often relax the throat muscles and can cause you to snore.
Your sleep position can have a significant impact on your snoring. Sleeping on your back (supine position) causes the soft tissues in your throat to relax and partially obstruct your airway.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition that occurs when the muscles that support the soft tissues in your throat relax temporarily, causing the airway to be narrowed or get partially or completely blocked. This disrupts breathing and can lead to snoring due to the vibration of the soft tissues in the throat.
As OSA blocks the airway and disrupts breathing, it decreases the amount of oxygen reaching the lungs, which signals the brain to wake up briefly to resume breathing. This can interrupt the natural sleep cycle. In severe cases, one may stop breathing altogether, causing a drop in blood oxygen levels and potentially serious health consequences.
Home Remedies and Lifestyle Changes for Snoring
Change Your Sleeping Position
If you have been sleeping on your back and experiencing snoring, you can try changing your sleeping position. Sleeping on your side instead of your back can reduce snoring.
Sleeping on your side, or with your head raised at least four inches, can make breathing easier and decrease snoring. You can use a body pillow or wedge pillow to support yourself in your new position.
Get Enough Sleep
Not getting enough sleep can lead to fatigue, which lessens the tonicity of the throat muscles, and this in turn contributes to snoring. It can even increase the risk of depression, major depressive disorder (MDD), or other neurology-related conditions. Further, sleep deprivation can lead to increased inflammation in the body, including in the nasal passages and throat, which can also cause you to snore at night.
Getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep can reduce fatigue and lessen snoring. Better sleep can also improve breathing by reducing the relaxation of the throat muscles and decreasing the likelihood of airway blockage.
Try a Nasal Dilator or Mouthpiece
Nasal strips can help open up the nasal passages, making it easier to breathe through the nose and reducing snoring. There are multiple anti-snoring mouthpieces like mandibular advancement devices (MAD), tongue stabilizing devices (TSD), and palatal lifting devices that can help reduce snoring.
Clear Nasal Passages
Regularly clearing the nasal passage can also help reduce snoring caused by nasal congestion. Nasal irrigation, for example, involves flushing out the nasal cavity with a saline solution, which helps to thin mucus and reduce inflammation.
Allergy medications such as antihistamines or corticosteroids can help relieve allergy symptoms and reduce inflammation in the nasal passages, thus reducing snoring.
Limit or Avoid Alcohol before Bed
Alcohol acts as a muscle relaxant that loosens your throat muscles, which makes the throat tissues more prone to vibrate when breathing. It also leads to sleep disturbances. Thus, avoiding alcoholic drinks before bedtime can reduce snoring and help you have a better and more fulfilling sleep.
Try to Stop Smoking
Smoking can irritate the airways and cause inflammation, which results in swelling of the throat and leads to snoring. Quitting smoking not only helps you snore less, but it will also improve your overall health.
Maintain a Moderate Weight
Excess weight puts pressure on the throat, narrowing the airway and leading to snoring. Weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can help reduce snoring.
Medical Treatments for Snoring
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a form of non-invasive positive pressure ventilation used to treat breathing difficulties, particularly sleep apnea. CPAP machines deliver a constant stream of air pressure through a mask, which helps to keep the airway open during sleep.
It is prescribed to people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart failure (CHF), and obesity hypoventilation syndrome (OHS).
If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, Sleeplay’s CPAP masks can help you manage your snoring. Sleeplay also offers sleep tests to help you understand if you have sleep apnea or any other sleep issues.
Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a medical procedure that uses high-frequency electrical currents to create heat and destroy tissue. A minimally invasive procedure, RFA uses radio waves to shrink the tissues in the throat that have been contributing to the snoring, which helps improve your breathing during sleep.
Custom-fitted Dental Devices and Lower Jaw Positioners
These are oral appliances that can help keep the airway open while sleeping by repositioning the lower jaw or tongue.
Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) and Tonsillectomy
Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) and tonsillectomy are surgical procedures that treat the underlying causes of snoring. UPPP involves removing excess tissue from the throat, such as the uvula and parts of the soft palate and pharynx, while tonsillectomy removes enlarged tonsils from the back of the throat. Both these surgical procedures involve removing the excess tissue in the throat that can contribute to snoring.
Laser-assisted Uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP)
A laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) is a surgical procedure used to treat snoring and sleep apnea. During the procedure, a laser is used to remove or reshape the tissue in the throat to enlarge the size of the airway.
Somnoplasty is a surgical method that uses radiofrequency energy to shrink the tissues in the throat, thereby reducing snoring. It is also used to treat mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Treat Chronic Allergies
Treating underlying allergies with medication or allergy shots can help reduce snoring caused by nasal congestion. Talking to your doctor can help you understand how to manage your allergy symptoms. Various over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications are available in the form of nasal sprays, liquids, and lozenges that can help improve the conditions.
When to Talk to Your Doctor
If you see no improvement after taking self-care measures, you should consult your clinician. They’ll help you analyze the underlying condition, suggest medications, and advise you on a suitable resolution. Make sure to follow up with your doctor after a few weeks to see if the treatment is working or not.
Further, if you find yourself waking up in the middle of your sleep with a gasp or experiencing choking in your sleep, daytime fatigue, morning headaches, restlessness, or drowsiness, you might be suffering from sleep apnea or other sleep disorders. Be sure to consult a doctor who specializes in otolaryngology.
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