Snoring may seem like an inconsequential thing, but it can have significant ramifications. Cosleepers of snorers can lose hours of sleep every night, which can create tension in a relationship. You may even lose sleep if your snoring wakes you up. Worst of all, snoring may be a sign of sleep apnea, a potentially life-threatening condition. Fortunately, snoring treatment can help lessen or eliminate snoring, so you and your partner can sleep comfortably at night.
What Causes Snoring?
Snoring is the result of a turbulent airflow in your throat. When you are awake and standing, your airway is fully open, but when you lie down to sleep, gravity tends to pull your airway closed. And because muscles that hold your airway open are relaxed, the soft tissues of your airway are basically hanging on your jaw for support. If your jaw is in a poor position, your airway will narrow, and as it narrows, the previously free-flowing air becomes restricted and turbulent, resulting in vibrations that we hear as sound.
Whether your airway narrows enough to cause snoring or not depends on many factors, including:
- Anatomy of the jaw and airway
- Your weight, and how much weight you carry in the neck
- Alcohol consumption at night
- Some medications
- Sleeping position—sleeping on your back makes snoring worse
You may try addressing some of these on your own before seeking treatment. Losing weight and quitting smoking can eliminate snoring. Reducing alcohol consumption at night may also reduce or eliminate snoring. Some people even try to change their sleeping position by sewing a tennis ball into the back of their pyjamas so they can’t sleep on their back.
Is It Sleep Apnea?
About 30% of snorers suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. In sleep apnea, your airway doesn’t just narrow at night, it closes completely, cutting off your air supply. If your partner ever notices that your snoring ends in a choking, gurgling, or gasping noise, or if your snoring is accompanied by daytime sleepiness, mood disorders, loss of focus, difficulty losing weight, or waking unrested, you should be evaluated for sleep apnea. You should also investigate sleep apnea if you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, or diabetes.
The most effective snoring treatment is an oral appliance fitted by a dentist. You will put this appliance, similar to a sports mouthguard, in at night before you sleep, and it will hold your jaw in the proper position to keep your airway more open at night. It can reduce or eliminate your snoring.
You may have seen similar devices on TV or at the chemist’s, but be warned that these over-the-counter devices are not generally effective because they are not tailored to your anatomy or sleep configuration. Only dentist-fitted sleep appliances have been shown to be effective on snoring.