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Does Snoring Have You Up All Night?

The snoring treatments you’ve been waiting for

When is snoring a serious sleep problem?

Snoring has been fodder for humorists for centuries, inspiring images of clueless oafs who generate noises loud enough to lift the roof or wake people in neighboring counties. But it’s really not that funny to be kept awake all night, and it’s even less amusing when the noise is a sign of a serious health problem, known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops for brief periods during sleep because the throat muscles can’t keep the airway consistently open. This leads to fragmented sleep and lowers oxygen levels in the blood, which in turn puts people at risk for cardiovascular problems such as hypertension and heart disease, not to mention daytime fatigue. The National Sleep Foundation estimates that 18 million people suffer from OSA, the majority of them undiagnosed.

Since snorers rarely wake themselves, their bed partners play a critical role in making sure they get help. Therefore, leaving the room, or kicking your partner out of bed, is a bad idea, because then no one can monitor the nature of the snoring, points out Rothstein, whose personal struggle with her snoring husband inspired her to write a children’s book on the topic, My Daddy Snores (Scholastic, 2006). In fact, “Most of our patients are men who are brought in by their wives,” says Scianna.

“If a woman observes that her husband is snorting, gasping or puffing, or if his snoring isn’t steady but goes up and down in volume, he should be evaluated for sleep apnea,” says Pascualy. (Likewise, if your bed partner notices these symptoms in you, you should be evaluated.) Most primary care physicians don’t routinely ask about sleep habits, so it’s important to bring the topic up yourself and get a referral to a sleep specialist, if necessary.

Is there a cure for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea?

Fortunately, many treatments exist to help snorers and those with obstructive sleep apnea. Not all work for everyone, but through trial and error and consultation with a physician, you might find one of these cures for snoring works for you.

Snoring Cure No. 1: Make lifestyle changes

Snoring has been linked to being both overweight and out of shape, so working on those two issues can have the payoff of improving your sleep. Losing weight and exercising more improve muscle tone, even in your palate, says Scianna. Avoiding alcohol before bedtime may help too.

For some people, the problem is purely positional, meaning they only snore when lying on their backs. If this is the case for you, you might find that arranging your pillows creatively keeps you on your side. (Some people even resort to wearing a special shirt with a pocket in the back to hold a tennis ball that pokes them when they try to roll over onto their backs.)

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