Sam and Kate have a happy marriage, but you wouldn't know it by their sleeping arrangements. Because of his snoring, Sam often migrates to the couch or the guest room so that his wife can get a good night's sleep.
Six out of 10 of adults say they snore. Most of them are men. While it's often the subject of jokes, snoring is no laughing matter for the couples it affects. The noise can impair the sleep quality of everyone in earshot - including the person snoring.
Not getting a good night's rest leads to daytime sleepiness. That can impair your thinking and concentration, which may affect your job performance and driving ability.
What causes snoring?
Anything that affects your air flow can cause snoring. The sound comes from the vibration of soft tissue in the back of the throat. When air tries to pass through a narrowed airway, the vibration is heard as snoring.
Snoring could be triggered by:
- Eating too much before bed
- Your sleeping position
- Alcohol, drugs, and/or sedatives
- Age - older people often snore because of weaker muscles
- Enlarged tonsils or adenoids
- Nasal congestion
Is it sleep apnea?
For some, snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea. With this disorder, the airways in your nose, mouth, or throat can close completely. Breathing typically stops for 10 to 30 seconds. This can happen 30 to 300 times a night. Large tonsils, the tongue, or the uvula (the fleshy appendage in the back of your throat) may be the cause.
Sleep apnea can be dangerous. It increases your risk for heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke. You're more likely to have it if you're male, overweight, or over age 40, but it can affect anyone.
Your doctor can help determine if your snoring is related to apnea. Or he or she may refer you to a sleep specialist for diagnosis and treatment.
Tips for a peaceful slumber
Mild or moderate snoring that is not caused by an underlying chronic condition can often be relieved with some of the tips below. For more-serious cases, a doctor may suggest other treatments. These range from wearing a device to regulate breathing at night to surgery.
- Lose excess weight. Extra body weight, especially around the neck, puts more pressure on breathing passages. Even a modest weight loss can help ease snoring.
- Avoid cigarette smoke. Kick the habit if you do smoke and avoid secondhand smoke if you don't. It may reduce nasal and lung congestion that may be causing snoring.
- Avoid sleep aids, alcohol, and cold medicines. They can cause the throat muscles to relax, which can lead to snoring.
- Avoid large meals before bed. A full puts pressure on the diaphragm. This limits breathing passages.
- Run a humidifier. This may help stop snoring for some.
- Elevate your head. Sleeping with your head slightly raised takes some pressure off the airway. Try putting blocks under the bedposts at the head of the bed, or prop yourself up with pillows.
- Sleep on your side. Snoring is more likely if you are lying on your back. Try tying a tennis ball or other soft object to your back to keep you sleeping on your side.
- Try nasal strips. Over-the-counter nasal strips may give you relief if you're congested.
If you snore heavily, it's best to see your doctor for a thorough exam. Snoring can signal underlying health problems, such as sleep apnea, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease.
Snoring canbe managed in most cases. With proper care, you (or your mate) will no longer have to retreat to the couch at night and you'll both be back in bed
Created on 03/25/2008
Updated on 06/08/2011
- American Academy of Family Physicians. Snoring, obstructive sleep apnea and high blood pressure. American Family Physician. 2002;65(2): 238-239.
- American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. Snoring.
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Sleep apnea.