If you can’t get through the night without a symphony of snorts and saws, you’re not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 90 million American adults snore.
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Snoring is common in both men and women but is more frequent in men, says Harneet Walia, MD, of Cleveland Clinic’s Sleep Disorders Center. It can disrupt your or your bed partner’s sleep. It can also be a symptom of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which may be linked to cardiovascular disease in the long run.
Lifestyle changes for snoring
People who suspect OSA should seek treatment as soon as possible. However,“in the absence of OSA, lifestyle changes should always be the first line of treatment,” Dr. Walia says. These include:
- Dropping extra pounds. For overweight or obese people, snoring may be caused by extra weight around the throat, which leads to the collapse of the upper airway. Because of this, weight loss may decrease the frequency of snoring.
- Banishing the brew before bed. Alcohol may cause relaxation of the airway muscles while you sleep, so avoid it for several hours before bedtime.
- Changing your sleep position. Sleeping on your back can cause your airway to close. If you snore, try sleeping on your side to open your airway.
- Quitting smoking. Doing so may improve nasal congestion and thereby reduce snoring.
A trip to the drugstore will show no shortage of over-the-counter solutions for snoring, but they are not always backed by research, cautions Dr. Walia. However, some treatments may help under a doctor’s guidance:
- Intranasal decongestants. These may be useful if your snoring is caused by nasal congestion — especially the common cold. For chronic nasal congestion, intranasal steroid sprays may be used.
- Nasal strips. These strips, designed to open the airway, can ease snoring in some patients, says Dr. Walia.
Treatments for serious snorers
About half of those with loud snoring have obstructive sleep apnea, which also can include symptoms such as daytime sleepiness or tiredness, gasping for air or choking episodes at night and witnessed pauses in breathing while sleeping. For obstructive sleep apnea, your doctor might order a sleep study in the lab, called a polysomnogram, or a home sleep test.
After diagnosis, these treatments along with lifestyle changes can help reduce snoring and improve your sleep, says Dr. Walia:
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This is the most commonly used therapeutic treatment for sleep apnea. You’ll wear a face or nasal mask overnight, which forces air through your airway to keep it open.
- Oral appliances. These mouthpieces increase the size of the upper airway during sleep, advance the jaw and the tongue forward, and can help reduce snoring. They are safer than surgery and effective in certain patients if used correctly. They can be used in isolated snoring as well, Dr. Walia says.
- Surgery. As a last resort, removing the excessive soft tissue from the throat to widen the upper airway can reduce snoring in some cases. You and your doctor should weigh the risks and benefits before surgery — and try other treatments first.