“Laugh, and the world laughs with you; snore, and you sleep alone.” This now-famous quote came from Anthony Burgess, a well-known writer from England. It was taken from his work entitled Inside Mr. Enderby. Though there was a lot more to this piece, this particular quote has been shared thousands of times on Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, and various other social media platforms. Inside Mr. Enderby features plenty of great lines, sharing ‘old bar wisdom’ and reflecting on the human experience, yet this one line is most often quoted.
Why? It’s pretty simple - it’s a line we can all relate to.
Snoring is common, meaning you either snore or know somebody who does. And, if you share a bed with someone who snores, you have likely left them alone, taking your buckwheat pillow to the couch to seek a peaceful night's rest. According to Johns Hopkins, approximately 45% of adults are occasional snorers and 25% snore each night.
Simply put, snoring occurs when the air you breathe in flows past tissues that are relaxed in your throat. This causes the tissues to vibrate, creating the noise we know as snoring. Certain risk factors make some people more likely to snore. Individuals more likely to snore include those who are:
- Middle-aged or older
- Postmenopausal women
- Alcohol consumption
- Narrow airways
- Structural defects in the nasal airway
- Family history of snoring or sleep apnea
If you sleep alone, you may not know you snore or that your health is at risk. Chronic snoring is often an indication of a health condition and should be taken seriously. Severe symptoms of snoring are associated with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Although snoring does not mean you have OSA, it could be an indication. OSA is typically experienced as loud snoring and then a period of silence when breathing stops. This can repeatedly happen throughout the night and cause restless sleep, gasping at night, excessive daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, chest pain, or high blood pressure.
To know if your snoring is a result of OSA, monitor for the following symptoms and speak to your doctor. In addition, you can read more about sleep apnea on our blog post entitled Positional Therapy: Properly Treat Sleep Apnea.
Common Causes of Snoring
The only way to know if your snoring is “just snoring” and not OSA is to see your doctor and complete a sleep study. Even without OSA, snoring can become a nuisance for you and the person you are sleeping next to. To reduce your snoring, you need to understand what’s causing it. For example, is it caused by a nasal defect or from consuming too much alcohol?
Snoring can be caused by several factors and may be more quiet or loud and room-shaking. It begins when you transition from light sleep to deep sleep. Your soft palate, throat, and tongue relax enough to partially block your airway, causing vibration. The more blocked the airway is, the more forceful (and loud!) the snoring will be.
Your physical anatomy will impact this airflow as well. For example, if you have a lower, ticker soft palate, it will create a more narrow airway. This is what happens with those who are overweight as they have extra tissue at the back of their throat. Obstruction can occur in your nasal passage as well. If you have a deviated nasal septum (the crooked partition between your nostrils), it can increase snoring.
According to Michael Gelb, a sleep apnea and sleep disorder specialist, a lot of snoring is due to Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome, which is a form of sleep apnea. He says this is becoming more and more common, and in addition to devices like a CPAP, you can make lifestyle changes to help open them up.
In addition to your anatomy, alcohol consumption is a common cause of snoring. If you enjoy a nightcap or a couple of glasses of wine with dinner, you may want to cut back. Consuming alcohol before bed can cause your muscles to relax too much, reducing your body’s defense against airway obstruction. Smoking can also contribute to snoring as it is often linked to OAS and chronic snoring. By cutting back on cigarettes, you can improve your overall health as well as reduce snoring.
If it’s not your anatomy, and you aren’t consuming alcohol before bed, it could be your sleep position. Often snoring is the loudest and most frequent when you sleep on your back and have a lousy pillow. This is because of gravity, and the narrowing of your throat. When you lay on your back and don’t have a pillow to support your head, your tongue can fallback and cause an obstruction. Fortunately, there are ways you can remedy this.
Lifestyle Remedies to Reduce Snoring
The most effective treatment for your snoring will depend on the cause. For example, if it is an anatomy-related issue, you may need to lose weight, or if it’s from drinking alcohol before bed, you should stop.
Another easy and effective way to reduce snoring is to get a better pillow! A firm and supportive pillow, like a buckwheat pillow, will keep your head raised enough to prevent the obstruction of your airway. Sleeping on your side can also help reduce snoring. When you are on your back, your tongue can fall into your throat, but when you are on your side, this won’t happen. A great tip courtesy of the Mayo Clinic is to sew a tennis ball onto the back of your pajamas. This will prevent you from turning over in the night. Alternatively, if you have an extra hundred dollars to spend, you could use a sleep positioner device. This device attaches to your neck and vibrates when you turn on your back. These vibrations will pick up in intensity until you roll over on your side.
To reduce snoring, you should also limit the use of sedatives or sleeping medication. These may help you fall asleep, but they can also cause excessive relaxation. Instead, if you need a bit of help unwinding at night, try a natural sleep aid or melatonin. Research has found that when you are exhausted and sleep-deprived, you are more likely to snore when you do fall asleep. This is why it is essential to get a consistent night's rest of seven to eight hours.
You can also find plenty of snoring solutions at your local drug store. Breathing strips that open your nostrils are said to reduce snoring caused by congestion. There are oral appliances like mouth guards that may help too. These are often custom fitted to your mouth that work by opening the airway and soft palate. These mold to your teeth and prevent your tongue from falling back into your throat. Another popular OTC remedy is a chest rub or essential oil that relieves congestion. These aids may temporarily reduce congestion; however, there is little evidence that they help with chronic snoring.
If you sleep next to someone who snores, your sleep quality is likely suffering. When you are kept up at night and become sleep deprived because of your spouse’s snoring, it can lead to resentment and have a negative impact on your relationship. Further, what is known as “secondhand snoring” can have adverse health consequences. For example, regardless of cause, sleep deprivation can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, memory problems, and diabetes. In addition, a 2010 study found that persistent sleep loss shortened life expectancy by 15%.
Although you can help your partner try the above lifestyle remedies and see a health professional, you need to also start prioritizing your sleep. If you want to continue sharing the same bed, start by ignoring the sound. This may sound impossible, but when you have something to distract your mind, you may be able to tune it out and fall asleep. Try using comfortable headphones or a speaker near your bed to listen to a relaxing podcast or guided meditation while sitting for 15 min. on your meditation pillow. If this fails, it’s time to start using earplugs. Though earplugs won’t block out the sound completely, they will muffle it and make it easier to sleep. The type of earplugs you use will make a difference in comfort level as well as much noise it blocks out. You can also try a white noise machine to help dilute the sound of their snoring.
For light sleepers, it may be best to try sleeping in a different room. Unfortunately, many spouses feel guilty about sleeping on the couch or in a spare bed, but research has shown that sleeping apart can contribute to greater marital satisfaction.
Regardless of who is doing the snoring, both parties suffer. Though it can be easy to brush off, it disrupts your sleep quality and can cause severe health conditions. If you or someone you love is a chronic snorer, it is time to speak to a health professional and put these remedies into practice.