By Denise Mann
Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson
Here's a classic one-liner: The wife says to her husband: "Do you know that snoring causes a lack of sleep? MINE!" Snoring is the butt of many jokes, but it's no laughing matter to the millions of adults who snore and the people who love them.
An estimated 45% of normal adults snore at least occasionally and 25% do so habitually, according the American Academy of Otolaryngology. Problem snoring is more common in men and in people who are overweight. And snoring usually gets worse with advancing age.
"Snoring is incredibly prevalent and people joke about it, yet it can create serious problems within the family," says Mark Mahowald, MD, director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center and a past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. "Many couples can't sleep in the same room because of snoring."
Buyers should beware before purchasing over-the-counter sprays and pills that promise to stop snoring, Mahowald warns. "There are all sorts of sprays, pills and tablets that claim to make snoring better, but I have yet to see any validation by scientific studies to support those claims," he says.
Fortunately, there are lifestyle changes and natural remedies that can help you stop snoring.
1. Change your sleep position.
Snoring occurs when the soft palate, uvula, tongue, tonsils and/or muscles in the back of the throat rub against each other and generate a vibrating sound during sleep.
So, at first, snoring "occurs only when you are lying on your back [and] your tongue falls back and increases airway resistance," Mahowald explains. That's why some folk remedies called for sewing tennis balls on the back of pajamas, he says.
"If you are one of these snorers, sleeping on your sides will usually help" you stop snoring, Mahowald tells WebMD.
However as snoring progresses, it can occur when you are sleeping on your side. Eventually, snoring can become present all night and at all positions. Then, it's time to examine your lifestyle.
2. Lose 10% of your body weight to help stop snoring.
Overweight people tend have bulky neck tissue which increases snoring risk. If you are overweight, losing just modest amount of weight - even just 10% of your body weight -- can help you stop snoring, Mahowald says.
"Anything that causes sedation such as sleeping pills or low dose alcohol can also cause snoring because they tend to suppress your breathing drive," says Robert W. Clark, MD, medical director of the Regional Sleep Disorders Center at the Columbus Community Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
If you snore because you have a couple of drinks or a sedative at night, either cut back or cut it out altogether, he advises.
4. Inhale steam before bed to stop snoring.
5. Try nasal strips to stop snoring.
Studies show that nasal strips can provide temporary relief from congestion and may also some people stop snoring.
"It's easier to breathe when your nostrils are open wide, so nasal strips, which are worn on the nose, can help if snoring is coming from your nose," Mahowald says. The catch? Most often snoring stems from base of tongue or soft palate -- not the nose.
Published Aug. 21, 2003.
SOURCES: Mark Mahowald, MD, director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center and professor of neurology at the University of Minneapolis in Minnesota. Robert W. Clark, MD, medical director of the Regional Sleep Disorders Center at the Columbus Community Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
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