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More than 90 million Americans snore while they sleep, and even more suffer from the sounds of their partners’ snoring. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent snoring from affecting the quality of your sleep and your health by learning about the best snoring solutions.
No matter what your goals are, self-care is critical for accomplishing them. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs and working individuals find themselves skimping in the self-care department. One of the most frequently overlooked aspects of wellness that working American adults tend to ignore is sleep.
However, a good night’s sleep is vital to your health, alertness and productivity. Even more importantly, chronic sleep deprivation can eventually lead to chronic health problems that can shorten your lifespan. For most people, six-eight hours of nightly sleep is necessary for staying focused and healthy.
In addition to the number of hours you sleep each night, it’s also important to consider the quality of your sleep. If you snore—or worse, if your partner snores—chances are you’re not getting the restful, restorative sleep you need. Furthermore, snoring can be a sign of health problems on its own, so it’s important not to let the problem go unaddressed.
How to Tell if You Snore
Some people may spend their whole lives never realizing that they snore when they sleep. Snoring is often a partner’s complaint since many snorers won’t wake themselves up with the habit. However, even if you don’t have a complaining spouse, it can be a good idea to test the quality of your sleep by setting up a recording device before you doze off. Then, you can listen for the tell-tale signs of snoring and take action if necessary.
For people who do sleep alone, the evidence of snoring may be most noticeable in the daytime hours. If you tend to feel tired even after a full night of sleep, snoring could be to blame. Snoring can cause you to experience lighter sleep, which won’t allow your body to get adequate rest. As a result, you might feel persistently fatigued, irritable or even depressed. Another common problem among snorers is frequent headaches. You can keep track of things like this with a sleep log. If you are showing these symptoms frequently you can take your journal to your doctor to discuss your problems.
If your doctor has a major concern about you snoring, they may suggest a sleep apnea test to see if you have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is considered a major health concern because it is linked to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and even weight gain.
What causes snoring?
During sleep, the airway may become constricted for one of several reasons. Sleeping on your back may cause the tongue to slip further back toward the throat or a deviated septum may partially block the nasal passages.
As the airway becomes smaller and air is forced through a tinier space, the surrounding tissues will vibrate, causing audible snoring. Generally, louder snoring will indicate a more significant blockage, as the smaller the airway is, the more intense vibration will occur.
Why do men snore more than women?
Roughly 90 million Americans snore when they sleep, but a higher ratio of those individuals is male. So, why do men snore more? While there are certainly many women who snore, it does tend to be more common in men for a few reasons.
First, men naturally have narrower air passages than women, so they already have an anatomical disadvantage. Lifestyle habits also play a role. Men tend to drink alcohol and use tobacco at higher rates than women, and both of these vices can contribute to regular snoring. Finally, men have a slightly higher risk of obstructive sleep apnea, so they are more likely to be heard snoring.
Women likely do suffer equally from snoring when it comes to being disturbed by their partners. Even if snoring doesn’t seem like a big deal for your own comfort, it could be keeping someone else up at night. In some cases, other members of the household who sleep in different bedrooms may even be kept awake by loud snoring.
What are the different types of snoring?
Snoring always indicates some type of obstruction in the airway, but the type and location of the obstruction can vary. For some people, snoring will only be an occasional problem—for example, it may only occur when a person is sick or has had a few too many alcoholic drinks. For others, it could be a nightly occurrence that’s threatening more serious health problems.
- Nasal snoring – This type of snoring tends to have a consistent rhythm with a rumbling or grunting sound. Nasal snoring may also cause a high-pitched whistle similar to a tea kettle. Usually, nasal snoring is easy to predict, because individuals who have it will have difficulty breathing through the nose during the day as well as at night. Underlying causes may include a sinus infection, allergies, deviated septum or a common cold. For issues that are chronic or anatomical, such as a deviated septum or chronic sinusitis, it’s important to work with a doctor for solutions. If you only tend to snore when you’re sick, it’s not likely to cause ongoing damage—though it may be courteous to your partner to sleep on the guest bed when you do come down with a cold.
- Tongue snoring – While sleeping, your tongue muscles relax and the rear section of the tongue can slide backward and constrict the airway by partially blocking the throat. Most often, this only occurs while sleeping in the supine position, or on your back. Tongue snoring tends to cause a higher-pitched snoring sound with more erratic spurts of noise rather than a consistent roar. Aging can tend to make tongue snoring worse, as the tongue muscles will become more relaxed as you get older. So, if you never used to snore but you do now, it could be tongue snoring. This is one of the types of snoring where alcohol is another potential contributor, because the muscles may become too relaxed after drinking. Therefore, replacing your regular nightcap with a cup of decaf tea or another non-alcoholic beverage could help to resolve tongue snoring.
- Mouth snoring – Mouth snoring stems from an anatomical issue. It is caused by a long soft palate or uvula—the soft tissue in the back of the throat. When excess tissue is present, the opening between the oral cavity and the throat is too narrow, so structures vibrate and bump against each other. The result is snoring that is generally loud with an even, consistent tone. Mouth snoring is one of the most common types of snoring.
- Obstructive snoring – Obstructive snoring, or throat snoring, is caused by obstructive sleep apnea, which is a much more serious problem because it is characterized by stops in regular breathing. With obstructive sleep apnea, the airway becomes completely closed and breathing stops for a brief period. As this occurs, it will cause you to wake up without realizing it so that you resume normal breathing. Snoring between these pauses in breathing tends to be very loud and arrhythmic. Pauses may last up to 20 seconds. This type of snoring is most threatening to your health, because throat snoring will prevent you from getting into deeper phases of restorative sleep, and it can contribute to issues like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Obese individuals have the highest risk of developing sleep apnea, but anyone can suffer from this condition.
When is snoring a medical issue?
If the underlying cause of your snoring is caused by your anatomy due to a long soft palate or a deviated septum, it can be incredibly helpful to see a doctor for solutions to your snoring. Even without an anatomical cause, it’s useful to have a doctor weigh in in your snoring and determine whether it’s presenting a risk to your health.
In general, your doctor should be aware of your sleep habits and may even make recommendations to get a better night’s sleep. In extreme cases, surgery may be recommended to correct certain issues. However, snoring can often be resolved with more conservative measures.
Once you figure out your snoring, check out our free downloadable on 7 Ways to Improve Your Sleep.
Best snoring solutions
Fortunately, snoring is not a problem you have to live with. Here are some of our best snoring solutions that can help cut down the noise and deliver more restful sleep for you and your partner.
- Nasal Dilators – If nose snoring is the problem, nasal dilators can help. These devices help to hold the nostrils in a wider position, so more air can move through the nasal passages. These devices are small and generally unnoticeable when worn. They are about the same size as a Band-Aid and just as simple to apply. A hot shower before bed can also help with opening up your nasal passages.
- Mouth Guards – A mouthguard is a custom-fitted device that will move your lower jaw forward while you sleep, which will help keep the throat open. This can be a helpful solution if you suffer from tongue snoring, mouth snoring or even obstructive sleep apnea. However, you will want to take the time to visit a dentist for a custom fitting, as an over-the-counter mouthguard with a more generic fit may be bulky and uncomfortable.
- Sleep Posture Therapy – For individuals who only tend to snore sleeping on their backs, posture therapy devices may be the best solution. These devices include special pillows and anti-snore backpacks that encourage a position of side-sleeping rather than supine sleep. If you already have a body pillow, try using that to force your body to sleep on your side.
- CPAP Therapy – CPAP therapy is commonly prescribed for treating obstructive sleep apnea. It involves wearing a breathing mask attached to a respirator to force the airway open as you sleep. Unfortunately, CPAP therapy does tend to cause frequent complaints from sleep apnea patients, because the masks on CPAP machines can be bulky and uncomfortable and the machines themselves tend to be noisy.
- New Pillows – Allergens can easily get trapped in your pillow. It is important to wash your pillows and even replace them every 6 months to keep dust mites and allergens at bay.
- Manage Your Weight – Being overweight can make you more likely to snore, so take steps to manage your weight, including a sensible diet and regular exercise. If you have noticed you have gained weight around your neck, that can be a sign that you are more likely to snore since your diameter in your throat will be more prone to collapse.
- Less Alcohol, More Water – If you are a regular drinker, try to cut down on how much you drink and avoid having alcoholic beverages within 2 hours of bedtime. By drinking more water throughout the day, you are more likely to stay hydrated throughout the night. If you are dehydrated at night, your nose and soft palate will become more sticky which increases your snoring risk.
- Stop Smoking – If you smoke or use any tobacco products, quit today.
- Create Positive Sleep Habits – Positive sleep habits are known as having good sleep hygiene. Developing better habits will allow you to sleep better at night instead of being so exhausted that your muscles become over relaxed while sleeping, which makes you more prone to snoring.
Snoring is a common problem, and it is one that can cause significant grief for its sufferers and their partners. Use these best snoring solutions to keep the peace by practicing greater self-care to promote healthier sleep and a healthier lifestyle.
John Shufeldt, MD, JD, MBA, FACEP is an emergency physician by avocation and entrepreneur at heart. He is an author, speaker, serial student, airline transport pilot and multidisciplinary entrepreneur, who has founded and operated several multi-million-dollar businesses.
Throughout all of his endeavors, John has maintained a relentless drive to help people rescript their future and reach their full potential.
His multifaceted experience as a physician, attorney, speaker and entrepreneur gives him rare insight into what makes a business succeed.
Over the years, John has come to realize that successful businesses don’t just happen. They succeed as a result of strong leadership, learning from failures and a well-executed business plan. An efficient organization is built on lean practices, proactive teams, a positive work environment and a solid foundation for continued growth.