Snoring Solutions – Harvard Health

Simple changes can help lower the volume.

If your wife or sleeping partner often seems to have cloudy eyes and resentment in the morning, you may be one of the millions of adults who habitually snore, a condition that affects twice as many men as women. Snoring happens when your upper airways narrow too much, causing turbulent airflow. This, in turn, vibrates surrounding tissue, producing noise.

“Snoring is a sign that there’s a really tight space,” says Dr. Sanjay Patel, a sleep disorders specialist at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “It either happens in your nasal passages or in the back of your throat.” Some men snore because they have excess tissue in their throat and nose. Others have soft tissues that are more likely to vibrate. The tongue can also interfere with smooth breathing.

Once the source of the snoring has been identified, you can take the appropriate steps to reduce the nighttime noise. These include not drinking alcohol at night, changing sleeping positions, avoiding medications that cause snoring, and addressing the causes of nasal congestion.

How to relieve snoring

Here are some factors that contribute to snoring and what you can do to reduce them.

Alcohol. Alcohol, a muscle relaxant, can relax your throat tissues while you sleep. “We see this all the time,” says Dr Patel. “Spouses say the snoring is tolerable except on nights when their partner has had a few beers.”

Weight. Extra fatty tissue in the neck and throat can narrow the airways. Losing weight can help open the airways if the person is overweight or obese, although many thin people also snore.

Medications. Medications that relax the muscles can make snoring worse. For example, tranquilizers like lorazepam (Ativan) and diazepam (Valium) can have this effect. In contrast, antihistamines may actually alleviate snoring by reducing nasal congestion.

Nasal congestion. Mucus constricts the nasal airways. Before going to bed, flush the clogged sinuses with a saline solution. If you have allergies, reduce dust mites and pet dander in your room or use allergy medication. If swollen nasal tissues are the problem, a humidifier or medication can reduce swelling.

Sleep station. When you lie on your back, the soft tissues of the upper airways can collapse and restrict breathing. Sleeping on your side can alleviate this. You can also try raising your torso with an extra pillow or by raising the head of the bed a few inches.

Smoking. Men who snore are often advised not to smoke, but the evidence that this will help is weak. Needless to say, there are already plenty of other good reasons to quit smoking.

Anti-snoring products

Many products claim to help with snoring, but few are backed by solid research. A potentially effective option is to wear an anti-snoring mouthpiece, which pulls the jaw (along with the tongue) slightly forward to open the upper airway. A device made by a dentist can cost around $1,000. DIY kits cost much less, but may not fit your mouth as well.

Nasal dilator strips are inexpensive and harmless, and some small studies suggest they may help reduce snoring. You apply these adhesive strips to your nose at bedtime to help open the nasal passages. Breathe Right is a well-known brand, but there are plenty of others at a relatively low price.

If you’re unsure what to do about snoring, a doctor can advise you and make sure your snoring isn’t related to an underlying sleep disturbance, common in men, called obstructive sleep apnea. “The louder the snoring, the more likely it is to be linked to sleep apnea,” says Dr. Patel. “Not all men who snore have sleep apnea, but if the snoring is frequent, loud or bothersome, it should at least be evaluated.”

Snoring Surgery: Try Conservative Steps First

Try the more conservative steps outlined above before considering any of these outpatient snoring relief surgeries.

  • LAUP. In laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty, the doctor uses a carbon dioxide laser to shorten the uvula (the soft tissue hanging dongle at the back of the throat) and also make small incisions in the soft palate on either side of the uvula. As these cuts heal, the surrounding tissue stiffens.

  • Palatal implants. Also known as the Pillar procedure, this treatment involves implanting up to three match-sized plastic reinforcing rods into the soft palate. The rods help prevent soft palate collapse which can trigger snoring.

  • Somnoplasty. Also known as radiofrequency tissue volume reduction, somnoplasty uses radio waves to heat and shrink the soft tissues that vibrate during snoring. It takes a few minutes and does not cause bleeding, but it may need to be repeated to get results.

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