Bad Vibrations: Snoring and its Solutions

Is your partner picking up bad
vibrations every night? More men than women snore, and it not only drives your
bedmate crazy. It may signal a health problem.
Close to half of all adults snore
occasionally, and a quarter are habitual snorers, according to the

Academy of Otolaryngology-Head-and-Neck Surgery (AAOHNS). Snoring is more
common in men than women and becomes more frequent with age.

Anatomical problems, such as
blocked nasal passages or poor muscle tone in the tongue and throat, and habits
such as drinking alcohol or nighttime snacking increase your risk of snoring.
But the number one risk factor
for snoring in adults is being overweight.
“When you gain weight, it doesn’t
just go to your belly or bottom; your face and neck get fat, too,” says Julie
L. Wei, MD, Division Chief, Otolaryngology, Department of Surgery at Nemours
Children’s Hospital in Orlando, Florida. “Excess soft tissue in your throat
narrows your airway. Your breathing becomes louder, and you’re more likely to
snore.” Having a large neck (greater than 17 inches for men, 16 inches for
women) puts you at increased risk of snoring.
You know what snoring sounds like
– that rattling, vibrating, gurgling, annoying sound that can keep loved ones
awake and may signal danger for you. Those “bad vibrations” occur when the
walls of your throat vibrate as you breathe in and out. The narrower your
airway is, the greater the vibration and the louder your snoring will be.
Apnea: The Not-So-Silent Danger 
If the walls of your throat
collapse completely for a few seconds, you may have a condition known as
obstructive sleep apnea (cessation of breathing) or OSA. These brief moments
when you stop breathing can happen repeatedly throughout the night, leading to
too little oxygen to your brain and your body. That can raise your risk for
high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and depression. Signs
that you may have OSA:
  • You wake up several times during the night,
    sometimes gasping for breath.
  • You feel unrefreshed, tired, or groggy when
    you get up in the morning and even throughout the day.
  • You have a sore throat in the morning (from
    breathing through your mouth).
  • You have headaches, especially in the morning.
  • You have high blood pressure.
  • You can’t concentrate or remember things as
    well as you used to.
If you have one or more of these
symptoms, see your doctor, who may refer you to a sleep clinic for an overnight
sleep study. (The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has a handy tool to
help you find an accredited sleep center in your area.) At a sleep center,
doctors can measure the number of times your breath is constricted (hypopneas)
or stops (apneas) for 10 seconds or longer throughout the night, as well as
your heart rate and brainwaves to determine if you have OSA and if you do,
whether it is mild, moderate or severe.
If you do have OSA, your doctor
may prescribe a nasal mask called a CPAP, so named because it delivers
continuous positive airway pressure to keep your airway open. Oral appliances
to open your airway or nasal dilators may also help. Less commonly, your doctor
may recommend surgery to prevent airway obstruction by reducing the excess
tissue in your throat or correcting a deviated septum or other nasal problem.
Making some simple lifestyle
changes can also improve your snoring and reduce your risk for apnea, and make
you healthier overall.
Lose weight if you are overweight.
little as 10 pounds can make a big difference in how much you snore.
Minimize late-night eating.
It takes
the stomach about four to six hours to empty. If you eat late at night, when
you lay down to go to sleep you’re more likely to have heartburn, reflux,
congestion — and snoring. Best advice? Stop eating completely at least three
hours before you go to bed.
3. Don’t
drink alcohol within four hours of going to bed.
“Alcohol relaxes the muscles in your throat that
control the palate, and if muscle tone is flaccid and floppy, as you breathe
in, the air flow pulls that tissue shut, causing you to snore,” says Dr. Wei.
4.  Treat
Take allergy medicine as
prescribed by your doctor, use air conditioning to keep allergens outside if
necessary, or try using a saline rinse before going to bed to clear your nasal
Change your sleep position.
When you
sleep flat on your back, gravity can pull your tongue back, narrowing or
blocking your airway, causing snoring or even OSA. Sleeping on your side or
stomach causes your tongue to fall forward, opening your airway, reducing
6. Sleep
with a humidifier,
in the winter. “The nose works best when there is adequate humidity,” says Dr.
Wei. “When you’re dry, the nose feels stuffy and you end up mouth-breathing
and  snoring.”
For more information about
snoring and sleep apnea, these websites can help:

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