Snoring is a fairly common affliction, affecting 40 percent of men and 25 percent of women. If you snore, you make a raspy, rattling, snorting sound while you breathe during sleep. Older people are particularly prone to snoring: About one-third of people ages 55 to 84 snore.
Despite its frequency, however, snoring is a sleep disorder that can have serious medical and social consequences. The tips that follow may help you sleep more peacefully.
You're more likely to snore if you're lying on your back, and sleeping on your stomach is stressful on your neck.
Excess body weight, especially around the neck, puts pressure on the airway, causing it to partially collapse.
Both alcohol and sleeping pills can depress your central nervous system and relax the muscles of your throat and jaw, making snoring more likely. These substances are also known to contribute to sleep apnea, a dangerous condition that has been linked with cardiovascular disease. And they should never, ever be used together. If you have difficulty sleeping without sleeping pills (or if you use alcohol to help yourself fall asleep), discuss it with your doctor.
Chronic respiratory allergies may cause snoring by forcing sufferers to breathe through their mouths while they sleep. Taking an antihistamine just before bedtime may help. If your nose is stuffed up, try using an over-the-counter saline spray or a humidifier.
Your dentist or doctor may be able to prescribe an antisnoring mouth guard that holds the teeth together and keeps the lower jaw muscles from becoming too lax.
Smoke damages the respiratory system.
Get plenty of sleep. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day.
Sometimes, women who are pregnant will begin to snore. The snoring may begin because of the increased body weight and because the hormonal changes of pregnancy cause muscles to relax. Whatever the cause, snoring during pregnancy may rob your baby of oxygen. Talk with your doctor about it.
Sleeping with your head raised may take some of the pressure off of the airway, making breathing easier. Raise the head of the bed by putting blocks under the bed posts, or prop up your upper body (not just your head, which can actually inhibit breathing) with pillows.
Excessive snoring may also indicate that you have sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder. The National Sleep Foundation (www.sleepfoundation.org) recommends that you see your doctor if:
- You wake up during the night choking and gasping for breath
- You have been told that your snoring is disturbing to others
- You don't feel refreshed when you wake up
- You are extremely tired during the day
- You wake with a headache
- You are gaining weight
- You have trouble concentrating, remembering, or paying attention
- Your bed partner notices that your breathing pauses during sleep
It's important to have sleep apnea treated, not only because it interferes with your daily functioning, but because it boosts your risk of vascular disease. Sleep apnea can be treated with lifestyle modification, surgery, oral mouth guards, or a CPAP machine, which blows air into the back of your throat while you sleep. For more information see Sleep Apnea In-Depth.