We have some things to try to stop snoring and find better sleep.
You can create the perfect bedroom sanctuary, but it will only help so much if snoring is keeping you (or your partner) awake at night.
Do you snore? You’re not alone. Some medical studies indicate at least one-fifth of adults are impacted by either their own snoring or their partner’s. While snoring itself may not be hurting your health, the effects of snoring certainly can. Snoring at night can cause fatigue, irritability, sleep apnea and a host of other health problems.
While there is no one miraculous cure for snoring, there are many things you can do to reduce it and its effects. Pinpointing the underlying cause of your snoring may help identify the best remedy.
What causes snoring?
There are several root causes of snoring. But first, it's important to know what snoring is.
When you snore, it's because air is having trouble moving through the airways in your throat and nasal passages. Because you're continuing to breathe, the air will continue to push its way through your throat and nasal passages, causing the tissue lining in the airway to vibrate. This is what produces that oh-so-familiar sound known as snoring.
Why is the air you breathe while you sleep having trouble moving through your airways? This can be happening for a number of reasons.
The position of your tongue.
Sleeping on your back is perhaps the most common cause of snoring. Why? In this position, your tongue relaxes while you sleep (like all the muscles in your body), and it can fall back, covering the airway of your throat. When this happens, the air has trouble moving in and out, causing the tissue to vibrate and ultimately, causing you to snore.
Nasal or sinus problems.
Obviously, when we’re stuffed up from allergies or illness, mucus can clog our nose and throat, causing or worsening snoring.
Most people don’t realize, but our throats can narrow slightly as we get older. This makes us more likely to snore as we age because the air we breathe has less room to travel through.
Being out of shape.
Exercise not only gives our bodies a workout but our lungs, as well. Lungs that are fit and in-shape are better at pumping air in and out of our bodies when we're awake and when we sleep. In addition, being overweight can lead to the buildup of fatty tissue, further blocking our airways and causing us to snore.
Men are more likely to snore than women. This one may sound unfair, but it’s true! Men’s bodies are built differently than women’s: men are actually born with slightly more narrow air passages than women, so they are more likely to snore.
Certain traits—like having a cleft palate, being born with large adenoids, having a narrower-than-average throat—can make you more prone to snoring. Sometimes, even the most physically fit people are naturally born with more tissue in their airways, which makes them more likely to snore.
We’ve all heard of smoker’s cough. Not only is it a health issue, it can also create a snoring problem. Cigarette smoke paralyzes the cilia in your throat, which are the tiny hairs that help move mucus through your throat. When those hairs are paralyzed by cigarette smoke, it can lead to mucus clinging to the tissue that lines your throat, which affects your airflow and causes snoring.
Alcohol and other medications.
Certain medications, especially those that relax the muscles, can cause your tongue and airways to relax, causing you to snore. In addition, people who take tranquilizers like lorazepam and medications like Valium are more likely to snore.
More serious medical problems
Excessive snoring could be an indication that you have sleep apnea, which is when you stop breathing while you're sleeping. If you often find yourself overly fatigued, you may want to talk to your doctor.
Once you think you have pinpointed the underlying causes of your or your partner’s snoring, there are everyday things you can do to try and reduce the problem.
Here are a few tips:
- Sleep on your side to reduce snoring. As we mentioned before, when you sleep on your back, your tongue relaxes and falls back, which can block your throat and constrict your airway, causing snoring. Training yourself to sleep on your side can be hard at first, but can greatly reduce or eliminate snoring.
- Ask your doctor for tips, or visit our Resource Guide for ways to train yourself to sleep in a different position. Studies have shown that sleeping on your left side specifically improves blood and oxygen flow throughout your body, which also makes it the top-recommended position for pregnant women.
- Elevate your head. Raising your head by as little as four inches while you sleep can help you breathe more easily. Gravity in this position may also help keep mucus from building up in your air passages.
- Anti-snoring mouthpieces and chinstraps. Mouthpieces can prevent mouth breathing while sleeping, forcing you to breathe through your nose. (Mouth breathing is one of the most common causes of snoring, and is also much less healthy overall since the nose is much more effective at filtering out dust particles and germs!)
Chinstraps can also help keep your mouth closed while you sleep, which cuts back on mouth breathing and encourages you to breathe through your nose, too. A chin strap also keeps your jaw in an optimal position while you sleep, which in turn helps keep your tongue in place.
- Nasal strips or dilators. When your nasal passage is clogged with mucus and you're breathing through that nasal passage, it can cause noisy, turbulent snoring. Over-the-counter nasal strips or plastic dilators can help open up the nasal passages and help air to travel through more unimpeded (and quietly!).
- Eat a balanced diet. This may sound strange, but holding on to extra weight and eating certain unhealthy foods have both been shown to cause inflammation throughout the body, which can cause aches and pains, indigestion and even acid reflux. All of these things can contribute to snoring.
- Do a sinus rinse before bed. A simple saline rinse or a Neti pot can help clear your nasal passages before sleep, making you less likely to snore due to congestion. This can be especially helpful during allergy season.
- Use a humidifier. Having dry airways can cause irritation and inflammation. Keeping the air in your bedroom moist can help you avoid this and therefore, help reduce or eliminate snoring as well.
It can take a little work, but trying a few of these remedies can help put you on the path to better sleep by eliminating (or at least reducing) snoring.