How to Sleep With a Snorer
Love can be blind and, for a while, even deaf. But snoring can take a heavy toll on a relationship. Sleeping in separate bedrooms is not your only option.
Examine His Habits
If you live with a chronic snorer, take a hard look at his habits. Some simple changes could stop the problem for good. The vast majority of snorers can be treated with a lifestyle solution, Dr. Hoffstein says.
Is he overweight? Being overweight is the most common cause of snoring, Dr. Hoffstein explains. A person who gains weight usually has excess fat deposits in the neck. The fat deposits increase the collapsibility of the throat tissue and can narrow the airway. Once men hit a shirt size of 17, they are candidates for weight-related snoring. Sometimes a weight loss of as little as 10 pounds can help.
Does he drink alcohol before going to sleep? If your bedmate is having a couple of nightcaps, it may be relaxing the muscle tissue in his throat and causing the tongue to drop back more. Don't drink alcohol less than four hours before bedtime, recommends Daniel Loube, M.D., director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle. Some medications, such as sleeping pills and tranquilizers, produce the same relaxing effect.
Does he sleep on his back? If he does, his jaw may open, causing the tongue to shift closer to the back wall of his throat, which narrows the airway. Elevating the head can help up to thirty percent of snorers, Dr. Hoffstein says. Another solution is to make him sleep on his side. One low-tech strategy: Sew a sock containing a tennis ball onto the back of his pajama top so that when he turns on his back, he'll wake up and change his position.
Does he smoke? Cigarettes irritate and inflame the upper airways, making them narrow. Snoring is just one more reason to try to get him to quit.
Possible Causes of Snoring
Does he have a cold or allergy? If so, the snoring is probably originating in the nose. If he has a cold, he can use nasal decongestants on a short-term basis. But if he has an allergy, it needs to be diagnosed and treated.
Is there an anatomical abnormality? These can range from a deviated septum to extra tissue in the neck. If you suspect such a problem, it's time to talk to your doctor about a sleep study or polysomnogram, which involves a one-night test at a sleep center (average cost: $1,200, usually covered by health insurance).
During the sleep study, instruments measure heart, lung, and brain activity; breathing patterns; arm and leg movements; blood-oxygen levels; and how often the patient awakens during the night. The study can determine the origin and severity of the snoring. Depending on the cause, there are a number of surgical procedures that can be done.
The downside of surgery is that it can be very painful — and there's no guarantee that it will work in all cases, says Ron Kuppersmith, M.D., a surgeon at Virginia Mason Medical Center. The various procedures, often done on an outpatient basis, tend to cost between $1,500 and $2,500, and are covered by insurance if there is an underlying medical problem. Another possible solution is a mouth device that moves the lower jaw forward, thereby opening up the airway. The device can be fitted by a specially trained dentist and costs about $1,000.