Not just a nighttime nuisance
Do you - or someone you share a bed with - snore like a freight train? Lifestyle changes and natural treatments for snoring can restore peace to your nighttime.
Imagine trying to get a good night’s sleep with the sound of a vacuum cleaner in your bed. Average snoring falls between 50 and 80 decibels (db), though some snorers can hit 90 db or higher. With a vacuum cleaner at approximately 70 db, and a jackhammer at about 100 db, it’s clear why snorers and their bedmates often wake up tired and irritable.
About 50 percent of adults snore at some point, making it a widespread and noisy problem. Lifestyle changes and natural treatments can help alleviate snoring, leading to a restful, restorative sleep. They may even improve your relationship.
What causes snoring?
When we fall asleep, the muscles in the roof of our mouth (soft palate), tongue, and throat relax, and the tissues in our throats may partially block our airways. The narrower our airways, the more forcefully we breathe. The more forcefully we breathe, the more our tissues vibrate and the louder we snore. For about 40 to 45 percent of men and 25 to 30 percent of women, habitual snoring is a nightly occurrence.
The extent and reason for the blockage vary. For some people, anatomical problems in the mouth, throat, and jaw are the culprits. Extra throat tissue, large tonsils/adenoids (made up of lymphatic tissue), a low or thick soft palate, or a long uvula (which hangs from the soft palate) can block airways, causing snoring. So, too, can small chins or overbites, particularly in women.
For others, congestion due to a cold, flu, or allergies; nasal polyps; or a deviated septum (an abnormality in the wall that separates the two nostrils) restricts nasal passages.
Gender, age, and lifestyle play a role. Men generally have narrower throats, while aging further narrows the throat and decreases muscle tone for both men and women. Being overweight or pregnant may cause extra tissue to form at the back of the throat. If our parents snore, we might too. Snoring is thought to run in families.
Smoking, alcohol, and medications such as sedatives, sleeping pills, and antihistamines can over-relax mouth and throat muscles, partially closing the airways.
More than just noise
Occasional snorers may have the odd bad night and feel tired the next day. If the snoring becomes habitual, however, the wear and tear on our bodies adds up. Its effects can range from psychological problems to more physical ones, including
Snoring that ends with gasping or choking for air is the main symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This condition, in which sufferers stop breathing multiple times during sleep, can result in heart problems and even death. More than 858,900 Canadian adults (3 percent) have been diagnosed with OSA. More people, often snorers, remain undiagnosed and at risk.
Stop the snoring
Snoring treatments range from lifestyle changes and natural remedies (see sidebar on page 80) to medical intervention.
Severe, habitual snoring or snoring associated with obstructive sleep apnea may require medical treatments such as
Traditional medicine is filled with remedies for occasional or non-severe snoring, often by relieving congestion. While conventional nasal sprays do the same, they can have a rebound effect that worsens congestion.
The natural remedies and treatments below are meant to help loosen, thin, and remove congestion and/or moisturize nasal and throat passages. Some of these substances also have natural anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties.
Acupuncture or auricular (ear) acupoint pressing may also help lessen snoring by removing blockages and is believed to realign the body’s energy flow.
Note: researchers are only recently studying natural treatments rigorously, so use them carefully and under the supervision of a health care professional. Also note that sleep apnea is potentially life-threatening and requires medical intervention.