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Snoring

Snoring - Why do people snore? and How to stop 

In This Article
Why do people snore?
Common causes of snoring
Self-help strategies for snoring
Anti-snoring throat exercises

You may be among the 45% of normal adults who snore at least occasionally or you likely know someone who does. He (or she) may be the brunt of jokes at family gatherings ("Uncle Joe snores so loudly he rattles the windows!"), but snoring is serious business.

ust about everyone snores occasionally, and it’s usually not something to worry about. But if you regularly snore at night, it can disrupt the quality of your sleep—leading to daytime fatigue, irritability, and increased health problems. And if your snoring keeps your partner awake, it can create major relationship problems too. Thankfully, sleeping in separate bedrooms isn’t the only remedy for snoring. There are many effective solutions that can help both you and your partner sleep better at night and overcome the relationship problems caused when one person snores.

Why do people snore?

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. 

Since people snore for different reasons, it’s important to understand the causes behind your snoring. Once you understand why you snore, you can find the right solutions to a quieter, deeper sleep—for both you and your partner.

Snoring may disrupt your sleep, or that of your partner. Even if it’s not bothering you too much, it’s not a condition to ignore. In fact, snoring may be a sign of a serious health condition, including:

  • obstructive sleep apnea (blocked airways)
  • obesity
  • an issue with the structure of your mouth, nose, or throat
  • sleep deprivation.

Common causes of snoring

  • Age. As you reach middle age and beyond, your throat becomes narrower, and the muscle tone in your throat decreases. While you can't do anything about growing older, lifestyle changes, new bedtime routines, and throat exercises can all help to prevent 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.
  • 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.

Self-help strategies for snoring

  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
    This will help reduce the amount of tissue in the throat that might be causing your snoring. You can lose weight by reducing your overall caloric intake by eating smaller portions and more healthy foods. Make sure you get regular exercise daily. You may also consider seeing your doctor or a nutritionist for help.
  • Eat a smaller portion
    Not only will eating larger portions all the time make it more likely that you’ll put on weight, a full stomach puts pressure on your chest muscles and makes it difficult for you to breathe normally while you’re asleep.

    Remember that it takes your brain around 20 minutes to realise that your stomach is full. Try eating a smaller evening meal, or eat more slowly so that you have a better idea of when you’re actually full.

  • Sleep on your side.
    Sleeping on your back sometimes causes the tongue to move to the back of the throat, which partly blocks airflow through your throat. Sleeping on your side may be all you need to do to allow air to flow easily and reduce or stop your snoring.

  • Try the tennis ball trick
    Snoring is often more likely if you sleep on your back, particularly if you’re a tongue-snorer. Sleeping on your side can help keep your airways open, but how can you make sure you don’t roll onto your back after you’ve nodded off?
    One trick is to sew a tennis ball into the pocket of an old t-shirt and wear it back-to-front. The idea is that it’ll be too uncomfortable to be on your back. It may seem a drastic step, but it’s a better option than a dig in the ribs from your partner!

  • Try an anti-snoring mouth appliance
    These devices, which resemble an athlete’s mouth guard, 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.

  • Avoid Alcohol.
    Alcohol and sedatives reduce the resting tone of the muscles in the back of your throat, making it more likely you'll snore. "Drinking alcohol four to five hours before sleeping makes snoring worse," Chokroverty says. "People who don't normally snore will snore after drinking alcohol."

  • Practice Good Sleep Hygiene.
    Poor sleep habits (also known as poor sleep "hygiene") can have an effect similar to that of drinking alcohol, Slaughter says. Working long hours without enough sleep, for example, means when you finally hit the sack you're overtired. "You sleep hard and deep, and the muscles become floppier, which creates snoring," Slaughter says.

  • Raise up the head of your bed.
    Elevating the head of your bed by four inches may help reduce your snoring by keeping your airways open.

  • Don’t smoke
    Smoking irritates the lining of your airways and causes a buildup of mucus that means air flows less freely. Of course, this is bad for your breathing generally - not just when you’re asleep!

  • Correct structural problems in your nose.
    Some people are born with or experience an injury that gives them a deviated septum. This is the misalignment of the wall that separates both sides of the nose, which restricts airflow. It may cause mouth breathing during sleep, causing snoring. It may be necessary to get surgery to correct this condition. Talk to your doctor.

  • Treat your allergies
    We’ve already mentioned that a blocked nose is the last thing you need before bed, so if you’re regularly left bunged up by hay fever or other allergies, you’re more likely to snore.

    You should also be aware of potential triggers in your home, such as pet hair, dust or the material your bedding is made from.

    Treating these allergies will give you a better chance of a quieter night, but some antihistamines may come with side effects that disrupt sleep in other ways. It’s best to discuss this with a doctor to choose the best option for you.

  • 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.

  • Wear palatal implants.
    Also called the “pillar procedure,” this treatment involves injecting braided strands of polyester filament into your mouth’s soft palate. This stiffens it to reduce snoring.

  • Get UPPP (uvulopalatopharyngoplasty).
    This type of surgery tightens throat tissue in the hopes it will reduce snoring. Laser-assisted uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (LAUPPP), which is sometimes more effective than UPPP, is also available.

  • Change your pillow
    A good pillow should align your head with your spine. When it comes to snoring, this could help stop your airways from narrowing or becoming blocked.

    For example, if you can only get to sleep lying on your back, a plump pillow will stop your head from falling backwards. This is especially useful for tongue-snorers, as it will help prevent your tongue from blocking your airways.

  • Don’t eat dairy
    While there haven’t been any clear studies as yet, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that suggests dodging dairy in the hours before bedtime can help deal with snoring.

    It’s thought that in order to digest dairy, your body produces a thick layer of mucus. While this isn’t a big deal during the day, it’s exactly the sort of thing that could narrow your airways just before you head to bed.

  • Eat a pineapple
    Your favourite tropical fruit is one of the best natural sources of bromelain, an enzyme with anti-inflammatory properties.

    This could help clear your blocked sinuses, while some studies have also claimed it decreases mucus production, which would stop your sinuses from becoming blocked in the first place.

  • Sing
    Don’t fancy repeating vowel sounds to yourself? That’s fair enough. Why not get the same results from belting out your favourite tune instead? Whether this is more annoying than snoring is probably up to your partner to decide!

  • Get enough sleep.
    Make sure you get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep you need each night.

Anti-snoring throat exercises

  • 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 your mouth open, move your jaw to the right and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the left side.
  • With your 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.
  • For a more fun exercise, simply spend time singing. Singing can increase muscle control in the throat and soft palate, reducing snoring caused by lax muscles.

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