Snoring isn't fun for anyone — the rhythmic racket can keep bedmates, and even housemates, from enjoying a good night's sleep. Besides being a nuisance, snoring may be associated with serious health conditions, like sleep apnea.
If you have sleep apnea, you may briefly stop breathing repeatedly while you sleep, because your throat muscles relax and allow your airway to become narrowed or blocked. Over time, sleep apnea can put you at higher risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack.
The Risks of Snoring
Even if you merely breathe loudly and don't have sleep apnea, the snoring can put your health and comfort at risk, says Joanne Getsy, MD, medical director of the Drexel Sleep Center in Philadelphia.
"What we notice when we do sleep studies on people is sometimes they snore, and then you see what’s called an arousal, a brief awakening in the brain, then the brain goes back to sleep, and the person snores again," she says. Patients can become tired because of the snoring. Even without sleep apnea, snoring can lead to high blood pressure or swings in blood pressure. It’s also been found to be associated with heart disease, separate from sleep apnea, Dr. Getsy continues.
It's wise to see your doctor if your snoring is audible throughout your entire house, you have high blood pressure or heart disease, you're sleepy during the day, or you're more than 20 pounds overweight, Dr. Getsy recommends. However, you can also use a number of methods on your own to help cope with snoring.
Tips for Silent Slumber
If snoring is bothering you or the people around you, start making these changes to enjoy more peaceful sleep at night.
Getsy stresses the importance of shedding extra pounds if you're overweight, since many people snore because of their weight. According to the National Institutes of Health, extra fat around your neck can cause your airway to become narrower and less likely to stay open. Specifically when men put on weight, an area that tends to get bigger is the neck, Getsy notes.
Avoid alcohol before bedtime
"Alcohol will suppress the activity of what we call the airway dilator muscles — these are muscles that are meant to keep your airway open," Getsy says. "So if you drink anytime within four hours of going to bed, you're more likely to snore or snore more loudly."
Steer clear of certain medication
Sleeping pills, sedatives, and muscle relaxants are just some of the medications that cause the muscles that keep your airway open to become slack, she warns, which can lead to snoring.
Get plenty of sleep. "Sleep deprivation does the same thing to those airway muscles, so the more tired you are, the more you’ll snore," Getsy says.
Sleep on your side
When you sleep on your back, gravity tugs downward on the tissue in your airway, which can make snoring worse. Lie on your side at bedtime to reduce snoring symptoms.
"Sometimes, sleeping at a slight incline will make snoring better," Getsy says. Prop yourself up on a couple of pillows or a foam sleeping wedge or use an adjustable bed.
Snoring can be an annoyance or a sign of a larger problem. Either way, there are several tricks you can learn to manage the condition.