9 May 2023
When air passes through relaxed tissues in the throat, usually while sleeping, a rumbling or snorting sound comes out. We call that snoring. Everyone will snore once in a while but some people snore excessively. This can become more than an annoyance for bunk mates or even other people in the household. Loud snoring will awaken others leaving them sleep deprived and grumpy.
Before trying some of those stop-snoring aids that you see on television or in ads, realize that they are not all backed by scientific research or authorized studies. There are some lifestyle adjustments that may help. If not, visit with your primary care physician to see what he or she recommends.
- Weight loss can help some people. If you didn’t snore before, but have put on some pounds, it may be that the extra weight has centered around your neck, which can constrict the throat. This is not the solution for everyone because thin people can snore too.
- Some people who do not ordinarily snore will do so if they consume alcohol or take sedatives, which can relax the muscles in the back of the throat. The same is true for becoming overtired. Sleeping very deeply permits muscles to become too relaxed, which can cause snoring.
- If you are fighting a cold, the clogged nasal passages can cause snoring. Nasal strips can help as well as a warm bath before bed to open the passages.
- Changing sleeping position by rolling onto your side frequently helps. You also might consider changing pillows to a non-allergic brand and making sure that the bedroom is well dusted, including ceiling fans and baseboards. Run the pillows through the air fluff cycle on yor dryer to get rid of mites or other small particles.
Snoring can also be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This is a condition, or disorder, that occurs when breathing becomes very shallow or will stop altogether. The pauses can be a few seconds or several minutes. The person’s airway will become blocked or will collapse during sleep. Generally they will rouse themselves with a gasp of air. Obviously, it can create a danger fearing that they won’t awaken. This disorder can occur in children as well as adults.
Snoring is only one of the symptoms of OSA and you should look for other symptoms like:
- Sore throat in the morning
- Excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, or short attention span
- Restless sleep
If you have concerns, visit with your doctor. Be prepared to answer a number of questions and expect that your sleep partner will be asked some as well. This will help narrow down the possibilities and determine if sleep apnea may be a problem. In addition to a physical exam, the physician may order some tests like an x-ray, computerized tomography, or MRI. This is to rule out physical obstructions that may be causing breathing problems.
The next step would be a sleep study. This can be done at a facility, like a hospital or a clinic, or can sometimes be handled at home. The test is officially called a polysomnography. Sensors are connected to various parts of your body and you are asked to sleep as naturally as you can. This is often difficult. The sensors are recording brain waves, oxygen level in the blood, stages of sleep and eye and leg movements. The at-home versions are much simpler and only check heart rate, oxygen level, and breathing patterns. If there are concerns after the in-home version, you might need to go to a sleep study clinic for the full tests.
If it is determined that you have apnea, one of the most common treatment options is a breathing device that is a mask (attached by a head piece) connected to a hose that attaches to a machine. A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine will provide a continuous air pressure at a fixed rate to help the individual breathe through the night. Another option is an APAP or auto-adjusting positive airway pressure. The APAP works similarly but the air pressure will adjust during the night depending on the amount of air the patient needs at any given point.
Some people have difficulty adjusting to sleeping with these machines, but in the long run, find that they wake more rested and will function better throughout the day.