The truth behind snoring
An introduction to snoring
Do you or your partner snore? Snoring is simply noisy breathing that occurs while you sleep. Occasional snoring is a very common condition, affecting 40 percent of adult women and 57 per cent of adult men. It tends to occur more frequently in individuals who are overweight, and often worsens as you get older.
For the most part, occasional snoring is a harmless condition and one that causes more frustration for your bed partner than yourself. Snoring occurs when the flow of air through your mouth and nose is blocked while you are sleeping. When this occurs, breathing causes tissues within your upper airway to vibrate, resulting in the familiar snoring sound. There are numerous factors that can narrow or block your airway during sleep and cause snoring:
- Alcohol or sedative medication
- Chronic nasal congestion, i.e. allergy or infection
- Sleeping on your back
- Being overweight
- Older age
However, if you are a long-term snorer, it could be a sign of a more serious sleep-related breathing disorder called obstructive sleep apnea. This condition causes repeated interruption of breathing during sleep, and as a result, it affects the brain and body’s ability to get sufficient oxygen throughout the night. This can have numerous impacts on your health, and it can also impact the quality of your sleep.
Snoring and the impact on sleep quality
Occasional snoring does not significantly impact the overall quality of your sleep. However, there can be noticeable impacts on sleep quality for your bed partner or anyone who sleeps in close proximity to your bedroom. Research shows higher feelings of stress, depression, and fatigue experienced by those whose sleep is affected by a snoring partner.
If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, there can be notable impacts on the quality of your sleep. Because of the repeated cycles of brief awakenings throughout the night to restore breathing and normal oxygen levels, sleep apnea interrupts the various stages of sleep needed to feel well-rested in the morning. This can result in feelings of extreme fatigue or excessive daytime sleepiness. The lack of good quality sleep can also impair cognitive function, resulting in symptoms such as memory loss, poor concentration, and feelings of irritability.
What to do about it if you snore
If you’ve been told you snore, there are numerous lifestyle modifications you can make for a quieter and more peaceful sleep:
Start with weight loss and exercise. Since being overweight can contribute to snoring, putting efforts towards losing weight and making more time for exercise can be an important first step to reducing snoring. This is because improving muscle tone and reducing fatty tissue in the throat area can help keep the airways open during the night.
Avoid smoking, alcohol, and sedatives or sleeping pills. Smoking increases both inflammation and swelling in the airways, which can worsen snoring. Alcohol and sedative medications relax the muscles of the throat, which can impact breathing and also disrupt your sleep cycles.
Adjust your sleeping posture. At bedtime, avoid sleeping on your back, which can cause the tissues of your throat to relax and block your airways. You may find some improvement in your snoring by sleeping on your side instead. If you need additional support to maintain a side sleeping position, wedge a pillow behind your back to prevent you from rolling back over.
Prevent a stuffy nose. Use a bedside humidifier to help keep the air in your room moist, preventing any dryness or irritation in your throat and nose that could lead to snoring. If you are already feeling some stuffiness, you can use saline to rinse your sinuses before bed or try a nasal decongestant or nose strips to help ease breathing.
Tips for people with a partner who snores
While the tips above can be helpful for addressing the snorer, it’s also important for bed partners to have strategies for lessening the impact of the noise and disruptions to their own sleep patterns:
Drown out the sounds. Just like wearing ear plugs at a loud concert, slipping in a pair of ear plugs at night may be all you need to help muffle the sounds of a snoring partner. Another helpful option is a white noise sound machine or app. White noise consists of sounds of different frequency played together at the same time – and listening to the sounds of a waterfall or waves crashing against a beach may be all you need to block out your partner’s disruptive snoring.
Adjust your partner’s sleeping position. If your partner is lying on their back while snoring, try nudging them to roll over onto their side. You can also encourage them to use an extra pillow to elevate their head by approximately four inches to help open the airways and ease their breathing.
Move to another room. If all else fails, don’t be afraid to sleep in another room if it gets you the full night’s sleep that you deserve. However, sleeping in separate bedrooms can have an impact on physical and emotional intimacy, and feelings of resentment can arise from this, so it’s always best to discuss this option with your partner to protect the health of your relationship.
In most cases, snoring is a condition that can easily be reduced or prevented with simple lifestyle changes. However, if snoring is continuing to impact you or your partner’s ability to get a good night’s sleep, talk to your healthcare professional to ensure there are no underlying conditions that need to be further addressed.