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.)