Snoring is a problem that affects a large number of adults; about 45 percent of people snore at least occasionally, and one in five American adults are habitual snorers. It’s no laughing matter either: snoring can cause a rift in the strongest of relationships because it robs the spouse of rest and can lead to a variety of problems ranging from resentment to separate bedrooms.
Not only that, but snoring may be hazardous to your health; it is often the sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder characterized by repeated pauses in breath during sleep. This prevents the sufferer from getting restorative sleep and causes daytime drowsiness, irritability, confusion and loss of memory. It increases the risk of automobile accidents and can lead to serious medical complications including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure.
There are many treatment options for snorers, including medical procedures and natural remedies or simple lifestyle changes.
Coblation palatoplasty is a surgical procedure used to treat snoring and mild cases of obstructive sleep apnea. It is similar in concept to liposuction, and involves reducing the size and thickness of the soft palate and uvula.
The procedure is performed using a local anesthetic in an outpatient setting. Once the back of the mouth is numbed, a needle-like device is inserted into the soft palate and portions of the soft palate and uvula (and in some cases, the tonsils) are removed. Scarring from the operation stiffens the palate, reducing the vibrations associated with snoring.
Afterward, antibiotics and painkillers are prescribed, and it is recommended that you gargle with saline for about a week following meals in order to keep the wound clean. Physical activity should be limited for a day or two following the procedure. Drink plenty of liquids and work your way up from soft foods initially. Side effects are rare, but a little minor bleeding may occur in the first 24 hours. There may be some ear pain due to the proximity of a hearing nerve to the area being treated.
Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral appliances (mouthpieces) move the lower jaw forward a little and help to open the airway. Your physician may make a temporary oral appliance in the office or could refer you to a dental specialist with experience making oral appliances.
- Changing your sleep position. Snoring occurs when the tongue and throat tissue sag down during sleep, blocking the airway. Sleeping on your back worsens this, so try sleeping on your side instead. If you have a tendency to roll over onto your back, try taping a tennis ball to the back of your pajamas to prevent this. Using a body pillow can also help you remain on your side. Try elevating the head of the bed a few inches, or prop yourself up using pillows.
- Losing weight. A majority of those who snore are overweight. Excess weight around the neck can narrow your airway and make you more prone to snoring. Losing 10 percent of your overall weight can make a big difference.
- Avoiding alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol acts as a muscle relaxer, reducing muscle tone in the back of your throat and making snoring more likely. You should restrict alcohol intake four to five hours before going to sleep.
- Quitting smoking. Tobacco smoke irritates the membranes of the nose and throat, leading to blocked airways and an increased risk of snoring.
- Maintaining a regular sleep routine. Try to go to bed at the same time every night. An odd schedule can result in too little sleep, which leads to excessive tiredness. When you sleep hard, the muscles become more relaxed, leading to snoring.
- Keeping your nasal passages open. A stuffy nose can prevent air from moving freely, causing snoring. Try taking a hot shower before bed or rinsing your nose with a saline solution or Neti pot. Nasal strips may help keep your nasal passages open.
- Staying hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids to moisten your throat and palate.
- Using a humidifier at night. This will help prevent dry air from irritating the membranes in your nose and throat.
- Playing the didgeridoo. Learning to play this Australian wind instrument can strengthen the soft palate and throat, reducing the odds that you’ll snore.