Snoring May Not Be as Harmless as You Think. Here’s How to Stop It
How do you know if your snoring is harmless or if there’s more to it?
You, your parent, your sibling, your partner - who’s the biggest snorer of them all? Have you lost sleep at night because someone around you is blissfully snoring away? Or are you the culprit? Well, either way, you’ll agree that snoring is quite involuntary.
Snoring is a condition where something in the nose, mouth, throat or lungs blocks breathing while sleeping. This produces a soft/loud and unpleasant sound. It’s also a sign or first alarm of OSA (obstructive sleep apnoea). More on that later.
So what causes this? Is there a way to reduce or stop snoring? How do you know if your snoring is harmless or if there’s more to it?
Why Do We Snore? Is It Harmful?
Snoring can be a sign of sleep apnoea.
Sleep apnoea is when there are one or more pauses in breathing while you sleep. Pauses may last a few seconds to minutes, and as many as 30 times an hour. Breathing usually restarts with a loud snort or choking sound.
Snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea can happen for the following reasons:
- Crooked nose bone or polyps
- Throat muscle weakness
- Loose or tight jaw, thick tongue
- Fat in the neck
- Tongue falling back while sleeping on the back
- Relaxants like alcohol or some medicines also cause this
There are various risk factors as well which make certain people vulnerable to snoring.
- Medical: Increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, diabetes, heart failure, irregular heartbeats, and driving or work-related accidents.
- Psychosocial : Irritability, poor concentration
- Social: Usually makes the bed partner tired, irritable and sleep deprived as well, due to the loud snoring. At one time sleep apnoea and snoring was a major cause for divorces or separations around the world.
In adults, it’s a sign of worry when there’s loud chronic snoring almost every night, choking, snorting or gasping during sleep, waking up often feeling out of breath, waking up with a dry mouth, daytime sleepiness and tiredness, going to bathroom often at night, forgetfulness and decreased concentration, and morning headaches.
How to Reduce Snoring?
Here are some exercises and tips to reduce snoring and help with sleep apnoea:
- Make lifestyle changes - loose weight, exercise or brisk walk, maintain regular sleeping hours, quit drinking, smoking and avoid taking sleeping pills or sedatives of any kind.
- Avoid caffeine and heavy meals two hours before sleeping.
- Practice yoga to strengthen the muscles of the throat.
- Try sleeping on the side. Elevate the head of the bed by four to six inches.
- Singing can also strengthen throat muscles and reduce sleep apnoea
- Press the tongue up against the roof of mouth and hold it there for 3 minutes a day
- Purse the lips as if going to kiss and move them up and to the right, then up and to the left 10 times. Repeat again 3 times.
- Gargle with water for five minutes, twice a day
- Lightly hold the tongue in teeth and swallow five times. Repeat this 5 to 10 times a day.
Get a sleep apnoea test called a polysomnography done. If the cause of sleep apnoea is heart or nerve problems or any kind of brain damage or diabetes, get it treated by a specialist.
For mild to moderate cases, there are other medical treatments available, consult your doctor about it. For extreme cases, there are surgical options available as well.
(Dr Dillon Dsouza is a Mumbai-based Consultant ENT and Head and Neck Surgeon with Jaslok Hospital and Desa hospital.)
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