Snort. Wheeze. Roar. If someone in your bedroom snores, there’s no ignoring it.
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Snoring can be irritating to loved ones trying to catch some ZZZs. But it can also be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a potentially serious condition that causes repeated pauses in breathing during the night.
“Snoring and apnea often go hand in hand,” says ear, nose and throat physician Tony Reisman, MD.
Dr. Reisman explains why it’s important to root out the cause of your snoring — and how to squash the problem so everyone can get some rest.
Anyone — men, women, even children — can snore.
“Snoring is actually quite common in kids,” Dr. Reisman says.
Snoring happens when breathing is blocked during sleep. As air tries to push through the soft tissues, they vibrate — causing the telltale honks and snorts that make your significant other threaten to banish you from the bedroom.
Some people are just natural-born snorers. But often, snoring is caused by an underlying condition like:
Snoring by itself isn’t harmful. But it can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea. This sleep disorder causes you to stop breathing for a few seconds at a time, over and over, night after night.
If you have sleep apnea, you likely wake up after a night’s sleep still feeling tired. You might be drowsy during the day and have trouble concentrating at work or school. Some people nod off during the day, increasing the risk of car crashes or work-related accidents.
For people with sleep apnea, treating snoring is a matter of health. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to serious health problems, including:
There are several ways to address snoring, depending on what’s causing it. Here are some at-home remedies to help you stop snoring naturally.
“Extra weight is one of the primary causes of snoring in both children and adults,” Dr. Reisman says. During sleep, fatty tissue in your neck can press on your throat, blocking the airways when your throat muscles relax. Losing weight can literally take the pressure off.
In people with chronic nasal congestion, medications like antihistamines or steroid nasal sprays can help you breathe easy — and turn down the dial on the nighttime noise.
Try propping up the head of your bed. And snoozing on your side instead of your back may also cause less snoring. (Weird but true: Some people swear by sewing a tennis ball to the back of their shirt to keep them from rolling onto their back at night.)
Opening your nasal passages at night can help cut down on snoring. Adhesive nasal strips placed on the bridge of your nose lift your nostrils open to improve airflow. Another option is nasal dilators, which you insert into your nostrils to expand the nasal opening. Both strips and dilators are inexpensive and easy to find at the drugstore.
Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health. In addition to a decrease in your blood pressure and an increase in your energy levels, it can help reduce your snoring. Why? It improves your nasal congestion, which has a ripple effect on your snoring.
In general, banishing the brews before bed is a good idea for sleep quality. For snoring, it’s especially helpful. Alcohol may cause relaxation of the airway muscles while you sleep, so avoid it for several hours before bedtime.
If tennis balls and nasal strips don’t do the trick — or if you have symptoms of sleep apnea — talk to a doctor about these proven remedies that address both snoring and apnea:
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is considered the gold standard treatment for sleep apnea and snoring. You wear a mask over your nose or mouth that blows air into your airways while you sleep. The pressurized air keeps your airways open while you doze.
In the past, the devices were bulky and uncomfortable and had a less-than-stellar reputation. But they’ve come a long way, Dr. Reisman says.
“Today’s machines are streamlined, small and quiet, with different attachments to make them comfortable,” he adds. “It can take a little time to get used to it, but it solves the snoring and sleep apnea problem immediately.”
If a CPAP doesn’t agree with you, an oral appliance can bring you snoring relief. These mouthguard-style devices hold the lower jaw forward while you sleep — a posture that helps the airway stay open.
Though some over-the-counter varieties are available, Dr. Reisman recommends going to a dentist or oral surgeon for an appliance customized for your mouth.
“A badly fitting appliance can strain the jaw and trade one problem for another,” he notes.
Depending on the cause of your snoring, surgery can help. Procedures include:
It’s easy to ignore snoring — after all, it happens when you’re asleep. But if your significant other has banished you to the guest room, it’s probably time to weigh your options.
To get to the bottom of your nighttime noisemaking, talk to a doctor. They can look for underlying causes like chronic congestion or nasal obstruction. Your doctor may recommend a sleep study. You spend the night in a sleep lab so doctors can monitor you while you slumber.
“It’s important to get a comprehensive workup to find out what’s causing your snoring,” Dr. Reisman says. “If you have apnea, make sure to get the treatment you need to take care of your long-term health.”