Snoring and Why it's Serious

By Krista Elliott

You're sleeping peacefully when you awaken to a sharp elbow in the ribs and a hissed, "You're SNORING again!" Or perhaps you've taken to sleeping permanently on the couch or in a spare room to give your long-suffering spouse some much-needed rest. Although snoring is treated as a bit of a harmless joke, a staple of nighttime sitcom scenes, its effects can be a lot more serious than you might think.

Snoring's Effects

Snoring is well-known for its effect on sleep, both for the sufferer and the spouse (although one could easily call the spouse "the sufferer" as well). The racket, caused by the vibration of parts of the respiratory system, keeps snorers and those around them from having a restful and restorative sleep. The results? Daytime grogginess (and the inherent danger that brings), crankiness, an inability to focus, and decreased reaction times and problem-solving skills. People who are overtired are also more likely to make poor choices in their diet.

In addition to the problems caused by fatigue, the incessant vibrations caused by snoring can lead to arterial damage, increasing the chances of heart attack or stroke.

And of course, the effect on interpersonal relationships can't be ignored. Chronic snoring can cause significant tension with one's partner. The snoring party is annoyed at being blamed for something that he or she cannot help, while the partner is driven to their wits' end by lack of sleep.

How to Get Snoring Under Control

A good first step is to have your health practitioner test you for sleep apnea, a dangerous condition where the sufferer stops breathing for short periods. If you do have sleep apnea, a number of treatments are available to provide relief.

If you do not suffer from apnea, but just garden-variety snoring, there are still a number of treatment options that could help you alleviate your snoring problem. Orthopedic pillows support the head in a way that helps to keep the airway unrestricted. Dental appliances called mandibular advancement splints pull the lower jaw (and as a result, the tongue) forward, helping to alleviate moderate snoring. In extreme cases, surgery is an option. As with all surgeries, risk is present. 

Other ways to help prevent snoring: 

  • Keep your weight at a healthy level to reduce the amount of fatty tissue in and around the throat. 
  • Limit your consumption of alcohol, especially before bed. Relaxants such as alcohol or other drugs contribute to snoring.
  • Try to avoid sleeping on your back. It can take awhile to retrain yourself to sleep on your side, but it can be done. 
  • Avoid smoking, as it weakens the muscles in the throat. 

Sawing logs at night doesn't have to be a constant occupation. With careful prevention and targeted treatment, you and your partner could enjoy silent nights for years to come.