If your spouse says the dog is more welcome in bed than you are, it might be time to do something about your snoring. Or at least talk about it.
About 45 percent of adults snore (most of them are men over 50). People may joke about shaking the walls or waking the dead, but snoring is a larger and more complex problem. At best, it can cause couples to sleep in different rooms. At worst, it can be a potentially life-threatening problem.
Snoring occurs because the muscles in your mouth and throat relax as you drift into a deep sleep. The relaxation narrows the airway and the tissues vibrate when you breathe. It’s the vibration that causes the snoring sound. Snoring can be increased by alcohol consumption, chronic nasal congestion, or structural problems like enlarged tonsils or adenoids, or a deviated septum in your nose. These are annoying, but generally – with the exception of possible alcohol addiction – not dangerous.
Obstructive sleep apnea can be dangerous, however. This kind of snoring is more common in overweight people. Weight gain affects your whole body, including the tissues in your mouth, nose, and throat. This results in an even smaller airway when you fall into a deep sleep.The small U-shaped tissue hanging from your palate, the uvula, can also enlarge and cause significant blockage.
Sometimes the tissues may be so obstructive that breathing may stop for periods of time – sometimes many times per night. Heavy snoring begins soon after falling asleep and when breathing stops (apnea), there is a period of silence, followed by a loud snort or gasp. The body is trying to get the oxygen it needs. In these people, sleep is not as refreshing as it should be, and they are often drowsy and cranky throughout the day. Most people with obstructive sleep apnea are not even aware that they are having these nighttime episodes.
What can be done about snoring?Some treatments are simple and quick. Avoid sleeping on your back, and don’t drink alcohol or take sedatives before bedtime. Weight loss may help, as can soft devices to keep the mouth open. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is provided by a simple face-mask – this can be hard to get used to at first, but can literally be a life-saver.
If conservative measures don’t work, there are surgical treatments, which are held in reserve until there are no other treatment choices. The pros and cons of each option and a full review of your individual needs will help you make an informed and intelligent treatment choice.
Snoring can definitely affect your quality of life, not to mention that of your family. There is help, but only if you’re willing to ask for it.
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When should you seek help for snoring? If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, you might consider a medical evaluation:
• Is your mouth very dry when you wake up?
• Are you congested when you wake up? Or do you have a headache?
• Is your nose feeling blocked up – either one or both sides – most of the time?
• Does your snoring sometimes wake you up?
• Are loved ones complaining about your snoring – even the ones that aren’t sleeping with you?