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Snoring: Putting its Causes to Sleep

By Martha Michael

Women covering ears because her husband is snoring

Your partner is sick of your snoring, so you dutifully consult your doctor. Is it sleep apnea? A jaw alignment problem, or possibly just allergies?

You expect to get a prescription and go home with a CPAP machine or to be signed up for a sleep study, but instead, you’re told the problem is you. You’re told to “lose weight and cut down on your drinking.”

If lectures from your doctor do nothing but put you to sleep (a benefit your bed partner probably doesn’t share) then you’re likely to continue sawing logs for years to come.

An Unconscious Noise

Snoring is the effect of tissues in your mouth that, when relaxed, partially block your soft palate and make noise from their vibration, says the Mayo Clinic. The narrower the passageway, the louder the snoring, so your anatomy can be a causal factor and so can sinus congestion from allergies.

According to the Mayo Clinic, you’re more likely to snore if you’re a male, have a family history of sleep apnea, nasal problems or allergies. Or it may be that you’re just overweight and drink too much alcohol.

Alcohol relaxes your throat muscles, explains the American Academy of Otolaryngology. Your airway becomes obstructed when your tongue drops back and the muscles in your throat create more blockage from the sides. The deeper you sleep, the further your muscles relax, and when alcohol contributes to sleepiness it causes the excessive relaxation that triggers snoring.

When it comes to the link between weight gain and snoring, the AAO explains that overeating can increase the soft tissue in your neck, which makes your airway narrower. When your throat tissue bulks up, you’re more likely to snore. Sometimes heavyset individuals have extra tissue in their throats.

If you don’t get treatment for your snoring problem, you’re setting yourself up for complications, says the Mayo Clinic. Complications may include:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Frequent frustration or anger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Greater risk of high blood pressure, heart conditions or stroke
  • Greater risk of behavior problems
  • Greater risk of motor vehicle accidents

Silencing the Snoring

It’s up to those with a snoring problem to choose a pathway for change, at least if it’s the result of something within their control. The American Academy of Otolaryngology suggests some personal choices that may help counteract the condition. Getting exercise to trim down and contribute to muscle tone is a good start. You should also institute a routine for sleep regularity and maintain a healthy diet.

Abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages for four hours prior to bedtime and heavy foods for three hours before sleep. Use medications sparingly, including antihistamines, sleeping pills and tranquilizers. You can also turn to your chiropractor for help with excessive snoring. Your practitioner can consult with you to make lifestyle changes and offer guidelines for the best sleep positions, such as elevating your head and lying on your side, not your back. Chiropractic treatment may involve improving the alignment and neurological function of the neck and upper back, which could also help prevent increased levels of snoring.

Perhaps lectures from your doctor go in one ear and out the other (a much smoother pattern than the air through your sinuses), but without facing your snoring problem and its health risks, it’s possible to see conflict take root between you and your bed partner. Wake up and smell the coffee, or you may find yourself annoying your partner for several years to come -- or worse -- annoying several partners for several years to come.

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