Snoring is a sneaky bedfellow. You may not even realize you do it. It may not come to your attention until a bed partner throws an elbow into your ribs in the night. If you sleep by yourself, it can go unnoticed for years. If you do snore, what important symptoms or conditions could coexist with it? What are the most effective treatment options? When should you see a doctor about your snoring? Learn the answers to these questions as you discover solutions to snoring.
Symptoms Associated with Snoring
Snoring occurs when the tissues of the upper airway vibrate due to turbulent airflow through the nose and throat. It is, quite simply, the sound of vibration. Nevertheless, it can become quite loud when the airway is especially unstable during sleep. If the soft tissues more fully collapse into the airway – leading to obstruction, drops in blood oxygen levels, and sleep fragmentation with awakenings – this is sleep apnea . The two conditions often coexist.
Infrequent, light snoring may not be a problem. It may contribute to dry mouth at night. It may occur with nasal congestion from a cold or allergies. Snoring may be worsened by sleep position (sleeping on the back is worst) and alcohol. It may worsen as we get older and lose muscle tone along the airway. For women, menopause may significantly increase the incidence and severity.
Though typically benign, if snoring progresses to sleep apnea, however, this may be more serious. Sleep apnea is associated with daytime sleepiness, getting up to pee at night, teeth grinding, and other symptoms .
It may contribute to other health problems, including hypertension, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, heart failure, heart attack, and stroke.
It should be noted that chronic snoring in children is never normal and should be evaluated further.
Treatment Options for Snoring
There are various treatment options available to remedy isolated snoring. These range from home remedies, over-the-counter medicines, and strips to prescription medications, surgery, and medical equipment like CPAP. Explore the options and discover what might help you to breathe and sleep better:
Smoking cigarettes is clearly linked to an increased risk of snoring. If you smoke, the first thing you should do is quit. You will reduce airway irritation and swelling and benefit your overall health.
Stay off your back.
Sleeping on your back invariably worsens snoring. Try to keep to your sides. Consider the use of positional therapy, including a tennis ball t-shirt, Night Shift , or the Zzoma positional device.
Swallow a little olive oil.
This home remedy makes some sense and actually works for some people. By swallowing a little olive oil (perhaps a teaspoon) before going to bed, you may effectively lubricate the tissues of your throat. This may prevent vibration of the tissues and reduce snoring. It is safe to try and may benefit your heart health as well.
Reduce your alcohol intake.
Alcohol is a muscle relaxant. It causes the tissues of the throat to relax as well. This can contribute to your risk of both snoring and sleep apnea. Therefore, it is recommended that you avoid consuming alcohol for several hours before bedtime.
Use nasal saline sprays and rinses.
One of my favorite options is to increase the moisture with the nose and clear out congestion. This is a great way to reduce snoring from nasal obstruction. It is possible to clear out allergens that contribute to allergic rhinitis or hay fever. This can be accomplished by rinsing the nasal passage and sinuses with saline water from a neti pot or similar container. It is possible to make your own mix of salt and baking soda, or you can buy pre-made mixes. Alternatively, you can purchase saline spray applications from squirt bottles (Ocean Air, Ocean Spray, Simply Saline, etc.). These are very inexpensive and can be purchased for less than $5 to $10 at nearly any pharmacy aisle. You can use these rinses and sprays as often as you like. There is no risk of side effects, other than a runny nose.
Try Breathe Right nasal strips.
Another option available over-the-counter are the Breathe Right nasal strips. Much like a band aid, these sticky strips lift the bridge of your nose. If the obstruction is relieved, snoring may subside. Some people find the adhesive too harsh, and it may damage skin on older people.
Consider Theravent Snore Therapy.
Developed as an alternative to CPAP (and sold as Provent), these adhesive strips secure a micro-valve inside your nostrils that prevent full exhalation. Gradually, air builds up and creates a pressure that could theoretically stabilize the tissues of the airway and reduce snoring. Unfortunately, if the mouth comes open, the built up air escapes. At a cost of about $1 per day, it might be worth a try, but it doesn't have a very proven track record.
Focus on weight loss.
Losing weight if you are overweight or obese may reduce the crowding of the airway. This can improve snoring and reduce your risk of sleep apnea.
Treat allergies with steroid nasal sprays and other medications.
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, consider using steroid nasal sprays to relieve your symptoms. With less congestion, you may also snore less. Options include Flonase , Nasonex , Astelin , Zetonna , and others. There is also now an over-the-counter option called Nasacort . Other oral medications to treat allergies can also be helpful, including prescription Singulair as well as over-the-counter Allegra , Claritin , and Zyrtec .
Raise the head of your bed.
By raising the head of the bed by as much as 30 degrees, you can counteract the effects of gravity on the airway. An adjustable bed or simply propping yourself on pillows or a sleeping wedge may be helpful. It is also possible to raise the entire bed by putting the headboard end up on cinder blocks or stacked books.
Avoid the chinstrap.
You may see products available that are like a fabric chinstrap that supports your jaw and keeps your mouth closed. This may prevent mouth breathing, but what if you are breathing through your mouth because you need to? This is a bad idea and these devices are not recommended.
Do some tongue exercises.
There is some evidence that myofunctional therapy can improve the strength of the muscles lining the airway. This can reduce snoring and decrease sleep apnea severity. Unfortunately, it is recommended that 45 minutes per day be spent with the exercises, which is not very likely for most people. There are also studies that suggest learning to play a woodwind instrument (such as the didgeridoo) may be similarly helpful.
Get an oral appliance from your dentist.
There are numerous oral appliances that are sold to reduce snoring. These fit in the mouth like a bite guard, and most work by shifting the lower jaw forward and opening up the airway. The inexpensive ones typically don’t fit as well and may not be comfortable or even work. The oral appliances made by a dentist are fitted to your teeth, can cost thousands of dollars, and may not be covered by insurance.
If you have sleep apnea, use a CPAP.
For those people who have both snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (and many do), continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) can be a highly effective treatment. It works to deliver a constant flow of air that stabilizes the airway and prevents both vibration and collapse of these tissues. It is covered by insurance and may have other additional health benefits.
Consider your surgical treatment options.
There are a number of surgeries that are performed to treat snoring. In the past, the pillar procedure and uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) were popular options. The former involves the implantation of artificial stabilizers in the soft palate and the latter included the surgical removal of the uvula and part of the soft palate. These procedures may only be effective in some people. Additional options include nasal surgery, including radiofrequency ablation of the nasal turbinates and straightening of the nasal septum through septoplasty. In children, and rare adults, tonsillectomy can also be effective to relieve snoring.
See a sleep specialist.
If you have snoring that is bothersome or if you have symptoms suggestive or possible sleep apnea, start by speaking with a sleep specialist about your treatment options. You should be able to find a solution that leaves both you and those around you sleeping better.