One of the most common complaints I hear from my over-age 40 patients involves how they can get better sleep. Amongst all the things that can prevent people from getting a good night’s sleep, snoring can contribute to the poor sleep of everyone in the house! Snoring can also be a symptom of other breathing problems which can lead to poor health. Here’s what I advise my patients on how to get to the bottom of their snoring and improve their sleep and their health.
Snoring – A Symptom of Other Problems
Snoring occurs in 45% of Americans. Because it is so common, many people think snoring is just a normal occurrence of sleeping. It occurs most in men, or overweight people, and occurs more often in older people. In truth, snoring is not a normal occurrence of sleeping. If you are breathing normally through your nose while you sleep, without obstruction, snoring does not occur. Snoring can become a real nuisance to those sharing a bedroom or house with the snorer, keeping them awake. It can also become a health problem to the snorer.
Snoring is almost always a result of a partially obstructed airway – and most often starts in the back of the throat. You take in enough oxygen to breathe, but an obstruction causes varying reverberations of sound within the airway. The obstructions can be temporary from mucous plugged nasal sinuses due to seasonal allergies, house dust, pet dander, or a cold. Or, the obstruction can be from a physical deformity somewhere in the airway. These types of obstructions can include:
- An overgrown uvula at the back of the throat, and/or age, or alcohol-related decreased muscle tone in mouth allows the tongue to fall back and block the airway
- Deviated nasal septum, or nasal polyps, can partially block the flow of air
Health Risks of Snoring
Snoring puts the snorer at greater risk for developing certain health conditions from inadequate sleep. Some snorers actually experience periods of breathing cessation during sleep. This is called sleep apnea. In fact, 75% of snorers actually experience sleep apnea. This can lead to several health issues and complications including:
- Heart/vascular disease – Stopping breathing during snoring, not getting enough oxygen can cause blood pressure to rise. Enlargement of the heart can also occur as well as damage to your vascular system.
- Safety issues/Decreased mental clarity – Decreased restorative sleep can cause daytime drowsiness leading to clumsiness and more personal injury accidents like falls or cuts. You can have accidents at work like dropping things, making faulty decisions, equipment injuries. You could have a serious auto accident from sleepiness.
- Weight gain – Lack of sleep can contribute to unhealthy weight gain. Certain weight control hormones like ghrelin and leptin get out of whack.
- Decreased body repair – Your body needs adequate sleep to release growth hormone, a critical repair hormone of your body. If this process is impaired, it can lead to DNA damage, toxic aging and the onset of age-related disease.
What Can You Do About Snoring?
Breaking the habit of snoring can be done first by determining what is causing it. I suggest an exam by an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor to determine any physical obstructions in your airway. If so, your doctor may offer you a surgical solution if there is one.
Or, if your obstruction is caused by excess weight around your neck, weight loss can help this. Your doctor may also suggest a device called a CPAP – short for continuous positive airway pressure. This is a mask that you wear during sleep that keeps your airway open. This device can be uncomfortable, however, and not everyone can tolerate them.
Another device called a mouth guard (under various brand names) is a plastic mouthpiece that is inserted into the mouth. It holds the jaw slightly forward to prevent mouth tissues from falling backward. Some people immediately become snoring-free with these devices.
Here are some other things I recommend to my patients to help them stop snoring:
- Sleep position. Sleeping on your back most often causes sleep apnea. Try sleeping on your side. This position prevents the airway tissues from falling back into the throat. If you have a reclining bed, lift the head of the bed 12”.
- Clean environment. Keep your bedroom as free from dust, mold, pet dander as possible to prevent allergic congestion and snoring.
- Clean nose. Taking a hot shower before bed opens up congested sinuses. Also, squirt nasal saline spray up into each nostril. Hold for 30 seconds or so and then blow out. The salty solution breaks up the congestion and allows you to expel it.
- Nasal strips. These can help if the problem is within the nasal passages itself.
Snoring can be an annoying and health damaging habit. It can cause a number of sleep-deficiency based health and social problems. As I advise my patients who snore, following the suggestions here can help you stop snoring. They can also allow you and your housemates to get a healthy night’s sleep and boost your health 100%!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Natural Health News
Snoring Fixes, http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/easy-snoring-remedies?page=2
Photo Credit: Justakrusen.com