Some 45 percent of adults in the U.S. snore at least occasionally, and of that number as many as 75 percent also suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Snoring is not only a nuisance for partners but also can lead to and/or exacerbate health problems for the snorer. OSA in particular has been linked to heart disease.
Obviously, if you suspect you have sleep apnea, which is characterized by bouts of interrupted breathing during sleep, you need to seek professional help and see what’s causing the problem and how to treat it. If you’re just an occasional snorer or light snorer, however, there are some self-help tips and methods that can help you curb your snoring.
Here then are seven self-help tips for snorers:
1) Sleep on your side. Sleeping on your back compresses the tongue and soft palate to the back of the throat and creates a vibrating sound, which causes the snoring that results. You can buy a body pillow specifically designed to maintain an on-the-side sleeping position. Pillows that prop up your head also can help by opening up your nasal airway. Some people have even attached tennis balls to the backs of their pajamas to wake them up if they roll over on their backs.
2) Lose weight. Snoring almost always results from gaining too much weight, because the fat also appears in your soft palate, making it flabby and easy to vibrate when air is taken in. Losing weight can help reduce or eliminate snoring.
3) Avoid alcohol. Alcohol relaxes the muscles in the back of your throat, increasing the chances that you’ll snore. You should not touch alcohol at least four or five hours before going to bed.
4) Adapt good sleep hygiene. We’ve discussed sleep hygiene in other articles, but important habits including going to bed and arising on a routine schedule, turning off all lights and distractions, and being kind to your body in terms of food and drink consumption. Most of all, don’t burn your body’s candle at both ends and shortchange your sleep in favor of more waking hours.
5) Open your nasal passages. If the cause of your snoring begins in your nose, then you can help by opening up your nasal passages. A hot shower before going to bed helps, but even more important is to rinse out your nasal passages with saltwater (which you should keep on hand). Commercially available nose strips can also help keep your passages more open.
6) Change your pillows. If dust mites accumulate in your pillow, this can cause an allergic reaction, resulting in snoring. Clean and change your pillows frequently. Also, if pets sleep with you, animal dander can cause a similar allergic reaction. Let the pets sleep elsewhere.
7) Keep hydrated. Consume plenty of fluids, namely water (not alcohol or caffeinated beverages). If you’re dehydrated, secretions in your nose and soft palate become stickier, thus blocking the airway and resulting in snoring. As a general rule, you should consume one ounce of water for every two pounds of your body weight on a daily basis.
These tips may help if you’re just a casual snorer, but if you suspect you suffer from OSA, make an appointment with a sleep professional ASAP. There are treatments and procedures that can curb your sleep apnea and its symptoms, and many are simple in-office procedures.