Sawing wood. Rattling the shingles. Grinding gravel. No matter what you call it, everyone can agree that snoring is a real nuisance. Unfortunately, it is a common problem, with around 90 million Americans experiencing snoring at least occasionally. So that begs the question: What causes snoring and what can be done about it? Let’s talk about the science behind snoring and look at treatments to stop snoring.
Why do people snore?
The purpose of our airway is to serve as a tube that sends oxygen from our nose and mouth down to our lungs. The lungs, in turn, send carbon dioxide back through our airway and out of our body. While we are awake, a variety of muscles in the upper part of our airway keep this tube wide open. Hence, why we don’t snore while we’re awake. However, when we sleep, those muscles relax, which causes the airway to become narrower. If it gets too narrow, the airflow becomes turbulent, causing parts of our airway to vibrate. This vibration causes the sound is what we call snoring.
How to Stop Snoring — Snoring Solutions
There are many factors that can contribute to snoring, from allergies to diet to your sleep position. However, there are a few ways to help cut down on the nighttime noise. Check out these snoring remedies next time you or a loved one can’t seem to quit it:
- Treat your allergies. If you suffer from congestion due to allergies, the inflammation and mucus in the airway makes snoring more likely. Finding the source of your allergies and ultimately your congestion can be one of the best treatments for snoring.
- Avoid alcohol. If you drink at night, the alcohol in your body can cause the airway muscles to relax even more than normal. The more relaxed these muscles get, the more noise you’re going to make. By going to bed with a blood alcohol level of zero, you are will be more likely to avoid snoring problems.
- Avoid your back. Sleeping on your back causes gravity to further constrict your airway. The tongue and soft palate may intrude on the normal flow of air. So if possible, try sleeping on your side. Keeping a pillow between your knees can make side-sleeping more comfortable. Sleeping on your stomach is another option, but many find that this causes too much strain on the back. Use whichever position is most comfortable for you and gives you relief from the noise.
- Watch what you eat. Extra weight gets distributed throughout your body, including your neck. The larger your neck, the more likely you are to snore. Keeping a healthy diet and regular exercise routine can also help improve your sleep quality in addition to relieving snoring.
When to Seek Help for Snoring
Although snoring may just be an annoyance, it can also be the sign of a much more serious problem. Around 50% of adults that snore regularly actually have sleep apnea, a condition in which the airway becomes so narrow that it’s unable to get adequate oxygen to the lungs. If you snore and have signs of poor sleep quality, you could have sleep apnea. These signs include feeling fatigued and sleepy during the day, having headaches in the morning, waking throughout the night gasping for air, or a bed partner that reports you stop breathing while asleep.
If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, it is best to consult a sleep specialist as soon as possible. And for those that do experience sleep apnea, there are very effective treatments, which should put a stop to the snoring once and for all.
About The Author
Dr. Sujay Kansagra Sujay Kansagra, MD is an associate professor at Duke University Medical Center, a paid contributor of the The Daily Doze and Mattress Firm's Sleep Health Expert. He is also the Program Director of the Pediatric Neurology Residency Program and Director of the Duke Pediatric Neurology Sleep Medicine Program. Dr. Kansagra is double board certified in both Child Neurology and Sleep Medicine. He has published over 30 peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals and is the author of numerous book chapters and books on the topic of sleep, including My Child Won’t Sleep. He’s been featured on Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Bustle, SheKnows, Thrillist, CNN, and Reader’s Digest, among others and can be found regularly discussing sleep, medicine and education with his 129K+ Twitter followers via his accounts, @medschooladvice and @PedsSleepDoc. Best Night’s Sleep: Not just a sleep expert, but also an expert sleeper, Dr. Kansagra can sleep almost anywhere, thanks to years of sleep deprivation during medical school and residency call nights. But his best sleep is at home with his family, on a mattress he purchased at Mattress Firm long before he joined our team. He recently upgraded it with an adjustable base.