Last summer’s post on how to stop the hiccups is still generating reader comments. Last night I saw an ad for a commercial product to help stop chronic snoring. It got me to thinking to bring up the topic in this forum to find your tricks to overcoming this noisy and nosy problem.
First a couple quick facts:
• Forty-five percent of normal adults snore at least occasionally, and 25 percent, or about 55 million Americans, are habitual snorers. Problem snoring is more frequent in males and overweight people, and it usually worsens with age.
• More than 300 devices are registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as cures for snoring.
And here’s some snoring data courtesy of MayoClinic.com.
Snoring occurs when air flows past relaxed tissues in your throat, causing the tissues to vibrate as you breathe, creating hoarse or harsh sounds. As you doze off and progress from a lighter sleep to a deep sleep, the muscles in the roof of your mouth, tongue and throat relax. If the tissues in your throat relax enough, they vibrate and may partially obstruct your airway. The more narrowed your airway, the more forceful the airflow becomes. As tissue vibration increases, your snoring grows louder.
What contributes to snoring
• Mouth anatomy. Having a low, thick soft palate or enlarged tonsils or tissues in the back of your throat can narrow your airway. Likewise, if the uvula is elongated, airflow can be obstructed and vibration increases. Being overweight contributes to narrowing of your airway.
• Alcohol consumption. Snoring also can be brought on by consuming too much alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol acts as a sedative, relaxing throat muscles.
• Nasal problems. Chronic nasal congestion or a crooked partition between your nostrils (deviated nasal septum) may be to blame.
• Sleep apnea. Snoring may also be associated with obstructive sleep apnea. In this serious condition, your throat tissues obstruct your airway, preventing you from breathing. Sleep apnea is characterized by loud snoring followed by periods of silence that can last 10 seconds or more. Eventually, the lack of oxygen and an increase in carbon dioxide signal you to wake up, forcing your airway open with a loud snort or gasping sound.
• Oral appliances. Oral appliances are form-fitting dental mouthpieces that help advance the position of your tongue and soft palate to keep your air passage open.
• Traditional surgery. You're given general anesthesia and your surgeon tightens and trims excess tissues -- a type of face-lift for your throat.
• Laser surgery. In an outpatient surgery, your doctor uses a small hand-held laser beam to shorten the soft palate and remove your uvula. You may need more than one session to get your snoring under control. Laser surgery isn't advised for occasional or light snoring, but it's an option if your snoring is loud and disruptive.
• Radio frequency tissue. Doctors use a low-intensity radio frequency signal to remove part of the soft palate to reduce snoring. It's an outpatient procedure performed using local anesthesia.
• Continuous positive airway pressure. This approach involves wearing a pressurized mask over your nose while you sleep. The mask is attached to a small pump that forces air through your airway, which keeps it open.
To prevent or quiet snoring, try these tips:
• If you're overweight, lose weight. Being overweight is a common cause of snoring. Loose throat tissues are more likely to vibrate as you breathe, and extra bulkiness in the throat narrows your airway.
• Sleep on your side. Lying on your back allows your tongue to fall backward into your throat, narrowing your airway and partially obstructing airflow. To prevent sleeping on your back, try sewing a tennis ball in the back of your pajama top.
• Nasal strips. Adhesive strips applied to your nose help many people increase the area of their nasal passage, enhancing their breathing.
• Treat nasal congestion or obstruction. Having a deviated septum or allergies can limit airflow through your nose. This forces you to breathe through your mouth, increasing the likelihood of snoring.
• Limit or avoid alcohol and sedatives. Avoid drinking alcohol at least four hours before bedtime, and let your doctor know about your snoring before taking sedatives or hypnotics. Sedatives and hypnotics (sleeping pills) and alcohol depress your central nervous system, causing excessive relaxation of muscles.