Studies suggest almost 45% of normal male adults and 30% of normal female adults are occasional snorers. You may be one of them if it happens infrequently. But snoring could be a serious cause for concern, if you are a frequent snorer and interrupt your partner's sleep.
Habitual or frequent snoring not just troubles the sleep pattern of others but also affects the quality and quantity of your sleep. It can lead to some serious health problems.
So, if you're here to learn how to stop snoring, read on. This in-depth article will guide you to explore the root causes of your snoring and the remedies that would best suit your needs.
Table of Contents
- What Are the Root Causes of Snoring?
- Cures and Remedies to Stop Snoring
- Can Lifestyle Changes and Home Remedies Cure Snoring?
- What Alternative Remedies You May Try?
- What Are the Conventional Treatments for Snoring?
- Can Surgical Treatments Provide a Permanent Solution?
- Medical Reference
The Root Causes of Your Snoring
Not everyone has the same reason for snoring. In fact, the reasons vary from person to person depending on many factors, including age, sex, biological setup, nasal airways, drinking habits, overweight, etc. So, to find out an appropriate solution, you need to get to the root cause of why you're snoring.
How does Snoring Happen?Snoring generally occurs when the airflow via the mouth and nasal pathways is physically obstructed. When a snorer breathes in and out while sleeping, the obstructed air creates vibration using soft tissues in his (or her) head and neck, and eventually, this leads to snoring.
Causes of Obstructed Airflow through Nose and MouthAirflow through the nasal passages and mouth can be obstructed by a combination of factors, including:
- Congested nasal passages: Frequent smoking, sinus infection, and high allergic sensitivity can be causes of your snoring because these results congested nasal passages. Accordingly, anatomical defects of the nose or nasal polyps can also cause airflow obstruction.
- Throat and tongue muscle weakness: While you're asleep, the muscles of your throat and tongue relax and this allows them narrowing the airways. Eventually, when the airflow is obstructed, it vibrates the tissues surrounding the opening and results in the loud sounds of snoring. This muscle weakness can result from sleeping medications, alcohol intake, and deep sleep.
- Bulky throat and nasal tissue: Floppy or too much tissue surrounding the nasal passages and throat can make a snorer's airflow more prone to vibrate. Being overweight or out of shape is the major cause of bulky tissues.
- Abnormally long soft palate and long uvula: If the soft palate, a muscular extension of the bony roof of the mouth, and uvula (a small extension at the back of the soft palate) are abnormally long, they can narrow the air passages from the nose to the throat. These abnormally long structures eventually result in airflow obstruction and cause snoring by vibrating and bumping against one another.
- Large tonsils: Tonsils are anatomically designed to identify and fight infections, and they usually swell when they fight with bacteria or microorganisms. However, most often these tissues don't go back to their usual size and remain enlarged. These enlarged tissues later narrow the airway and result in snoring.
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): Airflow obstruction can also result from a life-threatening sleep condition, obstructive sleep apnea (a severe breathing difficulty during sleep, which keeps the snorer waking up repeatedly for breathing). Louder snoring is often associated with more severe OSA. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine already supported this association and found that snoring intensity was increased when OSA became more severe. (1)
Other Potential Risk FactorsOther risk factors that may contribute to your habitual snoring include:
- Smoking tobacco or cigarettes: Tobacco smoke inflames the throat and nasal passages, which gradually narrows of the airways, and eventually results snoring following breathing difficulty during sleep. A study in 294 men with sleep apnea published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine reported that those who were smokers snored for a greater percentage of the night than nonsmokers did. (2)
- Being overweight: Overweight or obese people usually have a large amount of fat around their neck, and as fat around the throat can narrow the airway, they are more prone to snore or have OSA. Studies suggest that individuals with a neck circumference of greater than 17 inches generally snore a lot.
- Drinking alcohol: While you're asleep, alcohol depresses a specific region of your brain, which involves in regulating respiration. This action can desperately relax your throat and tongue muscles, and increase the narrowing of your airways.
- Consuming sleeping or sedative pills: In some people with snoring problem, intake of sleeping medications produces somewhat similar effects like drinking alcohol following the same mechanism -- by relaxing the muscles surrounding the throat and tongue.
- Being a man: Men have narrower airways than have women, and this structural difference makes them more likely to snore or have OSA.
Cures, Solutions, and Remedies to Stop Your Snoring
If you're finding a solution to stop snoring, you can go for a number of treatment options, including lifestyle changes, anti-snoring devices, surgical interventions, and medications.
Among these options, lifestyle changes can be the healthiest one for you if your condition isn't severe. However, many people often go for the anti-snoring devices first, but unfortunately, most of those products don't actually help at all.
Although there are some anti-snoring devices that really helps stop snoring, but finding the right one for your snoring problem can appear as a daunting task. Moreover, not everyone has the same reason of snoring, so what worked for others mightn't work for you.
For this reason, to stop your snoring, the first step should be to understand and evaluate the root cause of your snoring. A careful observation of your snoring while sleeping can help identify when you snore, what makes it worse, and why you snore, and for that, you may need your partner's help to monitor your snoring.
Understand How You Sleep to Discover Why You SnoreWhile you're asleep, the different ways you sleep and your sleep positions can play a big part in your snoring. Sleeping ways and positions that may contribute to snoring include:
- Open mouth snoring: Indicates a possible relation with your throat tissues.
- Close mouth snoring: Directs to a likely problem related to your tongue.
- Snoring on your back: Usually points to mild snoring if it's the only position you snore.
- Snoring in all positions: Mean your snoring is actually severe or you have OSA, and you need an immediate medical attention.
Lifestyle Changes and Home Remedies to Stop SnoringSnoring isn't often considered a medical condition, except when it is associated with obstructive sleep apnea. To stop your snoring, you can do many things on your own. Lifestyle changes and home remedies are two of the most effective options you can try if you want a long lasting solution for your snoring.
Lifestyle Changes to Stop SnoringTo treat your snoring, your doctor or GP initially will advise you to make some lifestyle changes, which may include:
- Lose weight, if you have gained extra fats around your neck.
- Avoid drinking alcohol and sleeping or sedative pills before bed.
- Perform regular exercise.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Give up smoking.
- Establish a regular routine for sleeping.
Home Remedies to Help Stop SnoringYou can use a number of home remedies to reduce the severity, frequency and loudness of your snoring.
- Sleep on your side. When you're lying on your back, the muscles of your throat and tongue relax and results narrowing of the airways. To avoid obstructing the airflow, make a habit of sleeping on your right side. However, if you find it difficult to stay in your position during sleep, use the tennis ball trick to avoid sleeping on your back.
- Elevate the head of your bed. Elevating the head of your bed 4 inches to 6 inches using bricks or solid stuff may help you to breathe ease and reduce snoring during sleep.
- Keep the nasal passages clear. If you're having breathing problems for a stuffy nose, keep your nasal passages clear. Treat your breathing problems promptly, because a stuffy nose not only makes the inhalation difficult but also creates an empty space in your throat, which eventually leads to snoring. Try using nasal strips or disks, or a preservative free nasal saline to keep the airflow uninterrupted.
- Treat nasal congestion or obstruction promptly. Suffering with seasonal allergies or having a deviated septum can congest your nose and obstruct smooth airflow through the nose. Try using medicines like decongestants and nasal corticosteroid sprays. These medicines can open the air passage, allowing an uninterrupted airflow, and may decrease snoring. However, oral or spray decongestants must be used for a short duration unless your doctor advised you to continue.
- Keep the bedroom air moist. The membranes of the nose and throat are usually very sensitive when exposed to dry air and often, dry air irritates the membranes, which in turn causes narrowing of air passages. Try using a humidifier to keep your bedroom moist.
- Perform throat and tongue exercises. Throat exercise has proven to be an effective way to reduce snoring gradually. As weak muscles around the throat and tongue can cause snoring, you may try throat and tongue exercises to strengthen the muscles. Curling the tongue repeatedly and pronouncing each vowel (a-e-i-o-u) for a few times a day loudly can strengthen the upper respiratory tract muscles and thereby reduce snoring. Try practicing these exercises for 30 minutes a day.
Alternative Remedies to Stop SnoringBased on the clinical trial reports, alternative remedies that might help stop your snoring include:
- Singing can improve the tone and strength of pharyngeal muscles, a group of muscles near the soft palate and upper throat. A randomized controlled trial published in the International Journal of Otolaryngology and Head & Neck Surgery reported that daily singing exercise for 3 months significantly reduced the severity, frequency, and loudness of snoring in participants. (3)
- Playing the didgeridoo (a musical instrument from Australia) is another alternative treatment for snoring. Regular practicing of this musical instrument can effectively strengthen the muscles of soft palate and throat, and thereby reduce snoring.
A randomized control trial performed to evaluate the effectiveness of this instrument, published in the British Medical Journal, found that regular playing of a didgeridoo was an effective treatment for reducing daytime sleepiness and snoring in participants with moderate OSA. (4)
Medical Treatments for SnoringIf you've tried the alternative and self-help solutions but failed to reduce the frequency or loudness of your snoring, then you probably have developed a more severe condition. However, don't give up hope, because you can still try medical treatment. Consult with a doctor specialized in ear, nose, and throat. Your doctor may recommend some tests to see whether you have a nasal deformity or developed OSA or other respiratory issues. Depending on the severity of your snoring, your doctor may suggest:
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): A standard and effective treatment for OSA but not so popular among people suffering from snoring. CAPA is a small pump machine that helps to keep your airway open while you're asleep. Using this machine involves wearing a mask over your nose as well. The pump machine blows pressurized air into the mask and keeps the airway open by forcing air through it.
- Oral appliances: These devices are front-line treatment for snoring. People who feel uncomfortable with CAPA often use these devices to keep their air passage open during sleep.
Oral appliances are somewhat form-fitting dental mouthpieces. They usually work by pushing the tongue and jaw forward in order to improve the airflow. A dentist specialized in sleep disorders molds an oral appliance to fit in a particular patient's teeth.
Oral appliances have proven effective for both severe and non-severe snoring. A clinical study published in the Clinical Evidence written that oral appliances were seemed effective in reducing severe and non-severe snoring. However, the study also predicted that these devices might not perform as effective as CAPA. (5)
Surgical Treatments for SnoringSurgical treatments are considered as the last and final option for snorers who have tried just about all other treatment options but failed to improve their condition. For most cases of snoring, surgical treatments are used to modify the size of nasal passage by removing extra tissues or correcting nasal deformities. Surgical treatments that might help cure your snoring include:
- Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP): This surgical treatment is often preferred when it's diagnosed that the soft tissue in the mouth is responsible for causing the snoring. To establish a smoother airflow through the mouth and nose, surgeons specialized in UPPP will increase the size of nasal passage by removing the uvula, shortening the soft palate, and eliminating some excess tissue in the throat.
- Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP): An outpatient surgery that uses a hand-held laser beam to eliminate the uvula and shorten the soft palate.
- Radiofrequency palatoplasty: In this outpatient procedure, the surgeon uses a low-intensity radiofrequency to shrink and stiffen the soft palate and uvula so that they are less likely to vibrate.
- Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy: This surgical procedure can be used when it's confirmed that enlarged tonsils and adenoids are obstructing the nasal passage during sleep.
- Nasal septoplasty: This surgical procedure is done to resize and straighten the bone and tissues that are identified as nasal deformities.
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- E. Gregory Thompson, MD (2011). Snoring - WebMD.com.
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- Maimon N, & Hanly PJ. (2010) Does snoring intensity correlate with the severity of obstructive sleep apnea?. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 6(5), 475-8. PMID: 20957849.
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