By Fasoranti Afolabi
Just about everyone snores occasionally, but if snoring happens frequently it can affect the quantity and quality of your sleep and that of your family members and roommates. Snoring can lead to poor sleep and daytime fatigue, irritability, and increased health problems. If your snoring keeps your partner awake, it can also create major relationship problems. Thankfully, sleeping in separate bedrooms isn’t the only remedy for snoring. There are many other effective solutions available to help both you and your partner sleep better at night and deal with the relationship problems caused when one person snores.
What is snoring?
Snoring happens when you can’t move air freely through your nose and throat during sleep. This makes the surrounding tissues vibrate, which produces the familiar snoring sound. People who snore often have too much throat and nasal tissue or “floppy” tissue that is more prone to vibrate. The position of your tongue can also get in the way of smooth breathing.
To stop snoring, it’s necessary to first identify exactly how and why you’re snoring. The good news is that no matter the cause, there are solutions to relieve your snoring and help you and your loved one deal with complaints, resentments, and other relationship issues caused by your snoring.
Is it just snoring or sleep apnea?
Snoring could indicate sleep apnea, a potentially life-threatening condition that requires medical attention. Sleep apnea is a breathing obstruction, causing the sleeper to keep waking up to begin breathing again. Normal snoring doesn’t interfere with the quality of your sleep as much as sleep apnea, so if you’re suffering from extreme fatigue and sleepiness during the day, your problem may be more than just snoring.
The causes of snoring: Identify the cause to find the cure
People snore for different reasons. When you get to the bottom of why you snore, then you can find the right solutions to a quieter, deeper sleep. Enlist your non-snoring sleep partner to help you keep a sleep diary to monitor your snoring. Observing patterns in your snoring can often help pinpoint the reasons why you snore, what makes it worse, and how to go about stopping your snoring. Enlisting your sleep partner to help in this way can also help demonstrate how serious you are about tackling your snoring problem and the value you place on the relationship.
Common causes of snoring
Being overweight or out of shape. Fatty tissue and poor muscle tone contribute to snoring. Even if you’re not overweight in general, carrying excess weight just around your neck or throat can cause snoring. Exercising and losing weight can sometimes be all it takes to end your snoring.
Age. As you reach middle age and beyond, your throat becomes narrower, and the muscle tone in your throat decreases. While you can do anything about growing older, lifestyle changes, new bedtime routines, and throat exercises can all help to prevent snoring.
The way you’re built. Men have narrower air passages than women and are more likely to snore. A narrow throat, a cleft palate, enlarged adenoids, and other physical attributes that contribute to snoring are often hereditary. Again, while you have no control over your build or gender, you can control your snoring with the right lifestyle changes, bedtime routines, and throat exercises.
Nasal and sinus problems. Blocked airways or a stuffy nose make inhalation difficult and create a vacuum in the throat, leading to snoring.
Alcohol, smoking, and medications. Alcohol intake, smoking, and certain medications, such as tranquilizers like lorazepam (Ativan) and diazepam (Valium), can increase muscle relaxation leading to more snoring.
Sleep posture. Sleeping flat on your back causes the flesh of your throat to relax and block the airway. Changing your sleep position can help.
How you snore reveals why you snore
It’s important to note the different ways you sleep and snore.
Closed-mouth snoring may indicate a problem with your tongue.
Open-mouth snoring may be related to the tissues in your throat.
Snoring when sleeping on your back is probably mild snoring—improved sleep habits and lifestyle changes may be effective cures.
Snoring in all sleep positions can mean your snoring is more severe and may require a more comprehensive treatment.
Self-help cures to stop snoring:
There are so many bizarre anti-snoring devices available on the market today, with more being added all the time, that finding the right solution for your snoring can seem like a daunting task. Unfortunately, many of these devices are not backed up by research, or they work by simply keeping you awake at night. There are, however, plenty of proven techniques that can help eliminate snoring. Not every remedy is right for every person, though, so it may require some patience, some lifestyle changes, and a willingness to experiment with different solutions.
Lifestyle changes to stop snoring:
Lose weight. If you’re overweight, dropping even a few pounds can reduce fatty tissue in the back of the throat and decrease or even stop snoring.
Exercise can also help to stop snoring. As well aiding weight loss, exercising your arms, legs, and abs, for example, also leads to toning the muscles in your throat, which in turn can lead to less snoring. There are also specific exercises you can do to strengthen the muscles in your throat
Quit smoking. Quitting is easier said than done, but smoking irritates the membranes in the nose and throat which can block the airways and cause snoring.
Avoid alcohol, sleeping pills, and sedatives because they relax the muscles in the throat and interfere with breathing. Talk to your doctor about any prescription medications you’re taking, as some encourage a deeper level of sleep which can make snoring worse.
Establish regular sleep patterns. Create a healthy bedtime ritual with your partner and stick to it. Hitting the sack in a routine way together can help you sleep better and often minimize snoring.
Bedtime remedies to help you stop snoring:
Clear nasal passages. If you have a stuffy nose, rinse sinuses with saline before bed. Using a Neti pot, nasal decongestant, or nasal strips can also help you breathe more easily while sleeping. If you have allergies, reduce dust mites and pet dander in your bedroom or use an allergy medication.
Keep bedroom air moist. Dry air can irritate membranes in the nose and throat, so if swollen nasal tissues are the problem, a humidifier may help.
Change your sleeping position. Elevating your head four inches may ease breathing and encourage your tongue and jaw to move forward. There are specially designed pillows available to help prevent snoring by making sure your neck muscles are not crimped.
Sleep on your side instead of your back.
Try an anti-snoring mouth appliance. These devices often resemble an athlete’s mouth guard and help open your airway by bringing your lower jaw and/or your tongue forward during sleep. While a dentist-made appliance can be expensive, cheaper do-it-yourself kits are also available.
Throat exercises to stop snoring:
Practiced daily, throat exercises can strengthen muscles in the upper respiratory tract and be an effective way to reduce or stop snoring.
Try the following exercises to stop snoring. Start slow and gradually increase the number of sets you do. In some cases, you may be able to combine the exercises with other activities, such as commuting to work, housework, walking your dog, or taking a shower.
Repeat each vowel (a-e-i-o-u) out loud for three minutes a few times a day.
Place the tip of your tongue behind your top front teeth. Slide your tongue backwards for three minutes a day.
Close your mouth and purse your lips. Hold for 30 seconds.
With mouth open, move jaw to the right and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on left side.
With mouth open, contract the muscle at the back of your throat repeatedly for 30 seconds. Tip: Look in the mirror to see the uvula (“the hanging ball”) move up and down.
Medical cures and treatments for snoring:
If you’ve tried the self-help solutions to stop snoring without success, don’t give up hope. Medical cures and treatments could make all the difference. New advances in the treatment of snoring are being made all the time and the various devices available to stop snoring are becoming more and more effective and comfortable. So even if your doctor recommends something that in the past you found to be uncomfortable or ineffective, that doesn’t mean the same will be true now.
Medical cures for snoring:
If your own efforts to stop snoring do not help, consult your physician or an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat doctor, otherwise known as an ENT). He or she may recommend a medical device or surgical procedure such as:
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). To keep your airway open during sleep, a machine at your bedside blows pressurized air into a mask that you wear over your nose or face.
Traditional surgery such as Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), Thermal Ablation Palatoplasty (TAP), tonsillectomy, and adenoidectomy, increase the size of your airway by surgically removing tissues or correcting abnormalities.
Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) uses a laser to shorten the uvula (the hanging soft tissue at the back of the throat) and to make small cuts in the soft palate either side. As the cuts heal, the surrounding tissues stiffen to prevent the vibrations that trigger snoring.
Palatal implants or the Pillar procedure involves inserting small plastic implants into the soft palate which help prevent collapse of the soft palate that can cause snoring.
Somnoplasty uses low levels of radiofrequency heat to remove tissues of the uvula and soft palate that vibrate during snoring. The procedure is performed under local anesthesia and takes about 30 minutes.
Ruling out more serious problems
Snoring can sometimes be a warning sign of a more serious problem. A doctor should evaluate a snorer for any underlying medical conditions, other sleeping disorders such as sleep apnea, or any sleep-related breathing problems.
Call your doctor if you or your sleep partner have noticed any of the following red flags:
You snore loudly and heavily and are tired during the day.
You stop breathing, gasp, or choke during sleep.
You fall asleep at inappropriate times, such as during a conversation or a meal.
To rule out a more serious problem, a physician may refer you to a sleep specialist for a home-based sleep test using a portable monitor or request you stay overnight at a sleep clinic. If these sleep studies conclude that the snoring is not related to any sleeping or breathing disorders, you can discuss different treatment options to stop the snoring.
Snoring and your relationship
No matter how much you love each other, snoring can put a strain on your relationship. If you’re the one lying awake at night as your partner snores away, it’s easy to start feeling resentful. And if you’re the snorer, you may feel helpless, guilty, or even irritated with your partner for harping on something you can’t consciously control.
When snoring is a problem, relationship tension can grow in the following ways:
Sleeping in separate rooms. While this may be a solution for some couples, it can also take a toll on emotional and physical intimacy. And if you’re the one snoring, you might feel lonely, isolated, and even punished for something you feel you have no control over.
Irritability due to sleep loss. Disrupted sleep isn’t just a problem for the non-snorer. Snoring is caused by disordered breathing, which means the snorer’s sleep quality also suffers. Poor sleep takes a toll on mood, thinking skills, judgment, and your ability to manage stress and conflict. So is it any wonder that communication often breaks down when trying to talk about the problem?
Partner resentment. When a non-snorer feels he or she has done everything possible to sleep through the night (ear plugs, sound machines, etc.) but the snorer does nothing to combat the snoring, it can lead to resentment. Working as a team to find a snoring cure can prevent future fights.
If you value your relationship, make it your priority to find a snoring cure so you can both sleep soundly. Working together to stop snoring can even be an opportunity to improve the quality of your bond and become more deeply connected.
Communicating with a partner who snores
So you love everything about your partner… except his or her snoring. It’s normal. Even the most patient amongst us will draw the line at sleep deprivation. But no matter how much sleep you lose due to someone snoring, it’s important to handle the problem sensitively. It’s common to be irritable when sleep loss is an issue, but try reining in your frustration. You want to attack the snoring problem—not your sleep partner. Remember that your partner likely feels vulnerable, defensive, and even a little embarrassed about his or her snoring.
Time your talk carefully. Avoid middle of the night or early morning discussions when you’re feeling exhausted.
Keep in mind it’s not intentional. Although it’s easy to feel like a victim when you lose sleep, remember that your partner isn’t keeping you awake on purpose.
Avoid lashing out. Sure, sleep deprivation is aggravating and can be damaging to your health, but try your best to approach the problem in a non-confrontational way.
Beware of bitterness. Make sure that latching onto snoring is not an outlet for other hidden resentments you’re harboring.
Use humor and playfulness to bring up the subject of snoring without hurting your partner’s feelings. Laughing about it can ease tension. Just make sure it doesn’t turn into too much teasing.
Dealing with complaints about your snoring
It’s common to be caught off guard—not to mention to feel a little hurt—when a partner complains about your snoring. After all, you probably didn’t even realize it was happening. And although it might seem silly that snoring can cause such relationship turmoil, it’s a common and a very real problem.
If you dismiss your partner’s concerns and refuse to try to solve your snoring problem, you’re sending a clear message to your partner that you don’t care about his or her needs.
Keep the following in mind as you and your partner work together to find a solution to your snoring:
Snoring is a physical issue. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Like a pulled muscle or a common cold, improving the condition is in your hands.
Avoid taking it personally. Try not to take your partner’s frustration as a personal critique or attack. Your partner loves you, just not the snoring.
Take your partner seriously. Avoid minimizing complaints. Lack of sleep is a health hazard and can make your partner feel miserable all day.
Make it clear that you prioritize the relationship. If you and your partner have this understanding, you’ll both do what it takes to find a cure for the snoring.
Address inappropriate behavior. Although sleep deprivation can lead to moodiness and irritability, let your partner know that it’s not okay for them to throw an elbow jab or snap at you when you’re snoring.