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Health and Snoring

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Updated June 02, 2007

Snoring occurs when the airways in the throat and mouth are partially blocked. The blockage disturbs the incoming air and causes tissues in your mouth and throat to vibrate. These vibrations create the snorts and sounds that characterize snoring.

Causes of Snoring

Snoring can be caused by having larger tissues in the throat and mouth. Tissue size increases with weight; that's why overweight people are more likely to snore. People who take alcohol or sedatives before sleep may snore because the tissues in the throat and mouth relax more. Some people who snore may have sleep apnea, a sleep disorder related to interrupted breathing during sleep.

Snoring can be a Red Flag

While snoring itself does not cause a health condition, people who snore also often have other risk factors. Snoring has been associated with an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Pregnant women may begin snoring for the first time in the second trimester. This occurrence may indicate a rise in blood pressure, which is dangerous during pregnancy. Pregnant women who begin snoring should have their blood pressure checked.

Ten to 15 percent of children snore due to enlarged tonsils and adenoids. Snoring in children has been linked to lower intelligence scores and increased behavioral problems. If a child snores 2 to 3 times a week, he or she should be checked by a physician.

Stopping Snoring

Snoring can be treated through a combination of lifestyle changes and devices including:
  • Losing weight
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Sleeping on your side
  • Elevating your head during sleep
  • Treating congestion
  • Using a mouthpiece prescribed by a dentist

Do-it-yourself Snoring Cures

Numerous products are available to help you stop snoring as well as a host of at homeremedies. Most of these are harmless and may even help some:
  • Nose Strips: Supposedly you put these on your nose and they help keep your nostrils open all night long. Seems like a sound approach and can help with congestion-related snoring. If the snoring is caused by sleep apnea, being overweight or another reason, these probably won't help much.
  • Snoring Sprays: There are over-the-counter sprays you can buy to make you stop snoring. This seems to be a stretch.
  • Nose Drops and Snoring Gum: Not a lot of evidence that these are doing much except costing you money.
  • Mouthpieces: Unless designed by a dentist for your mouth, these devices are unlikely to help.
  • Anti-Snoring Pills: Wouldn't it be great if a pill could make you stop snoring? The marketing team at these companies thought so too.
  • Air Filters: Changing the air in your bedroom could help if your snoring is caused by congestion from allergies in the air.
  • Mouth Exercises: Mouth exercises to open your throat and unclench the jaw may help some snorers. Australians suggest learning to play the didgeridoo.
  • Shaking: There is a belief (perhaps perpetuated by endless Brady Bunch reruns) that shaking a person every time they snore will 'teach' them not to snore. While shaking a person may cause his or her snoring to stop temporarily, this technique does not address the underlying cause of snoring.

    Bottom Line: If you want to stop snoring, try changes in lifestyle first, especially weight loss.

    More on Sleep Disorders and Sleep Problems

    Sources:

    National Institutes of Health; National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Your Guide to Healthy Sleep. NIH Publication No. 06-5271.

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