Sleeping IssuesBy Mary Bolster
Want to turn down the volume on noisy nighttime breathing? Try these strategies
Listen and Learn
If you snore, you're probably the last person to know. The first is your partner, and if he or she says you're snoring, don't dismiss it. If you sleep alone, it's harder to know if you snore, though one clue is consistently feeling sleepy during the day. If you're allowing yourself eight hours of sleep each night, but not feeling refreshed, snoring may be the culprit.
When something blocks your breathing -- throat muscles being too relaxed or another issue that narrows the airway -- the tissues at the top of your airway vibrate causing those loud sounds. Whether the clues are overt (spousal complaints) or subtle (daytime fatigue), check in with your doctor -- or even a sleep specialist -- to determine the cause of your snoring and get it under control. In the meantime, there are several things you can do on your own to reduce how much snoring (and avoid the wrath of your partner).
If excess weight builds up in the throat, it will narrow your airway, causing you to snore. Studies about habitual snoring have revealed that the typical snorer is male and overweight. Obviously, being overweight is the easier thing to change. While losing weight won't cure snoring, according to Clete Kushida, M.D., director of the Stanford Sleep Medicine Center in Redwood, Calif., it can lessen the volume and frequency of your snoring. Plus, losing weight is good for general health. You may have to lose 10 percent of your body weight before noticing a difference in your snoring, says Nina Kolstanginova, M.D., of the Hamden Sleep Disorder Center of Connecticut.
Besides being overweight, smoking is also common among snorers. It's not surprising since anything that interferes with the flow of air in your upper airways increases the risk of snoring. Nicotine can irritate your throat and weaken tissue in your airway, causing an obstruction that leads to snoring, says Dr. Kolstanginova. For help kicking the habit, check out the American Cancer Society or the Centers for Disease Control for help.
Find Out if It's Sleep Apnea
When you have obstructive sleep apnea your airway collapses during sleep and your breathing stops momentarily, depriving vital organs of oxygen, which can lead to consequences like heart attack, stroke and problems with memory and concentration, says Dr. Kushida. To manage sleep apnea your doctor will probably recommend a continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) mask. It fits over your nose and mouth and is hooked up to a machine that draws air from the room, pumping it gently through your nose to keep the airway open, Kushida explains. If the mask is uncomfortable or makes you feel claustrophobic, anxious or panicked, Kolstanginova recommends speaking to a sleep psychologist to help you overcome your fear and discomfort. Besides quieting your snoring, the mask decreases your risk of heart attack and stroke and can alleviate depression, reduce symptoms of bipolar disorder as well as boost your memory and concentration, says Kushida.
Don't Drink Too Much
Alcohol relaxes the muscles of the upper airway and can suppress your breathing, which can lead to snoring or worsen sleep apnea, says Kolstanginova. Moderate your drinking and cut yourself off well before bedtime.
If you're prone to acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), be especially careful about what you eat since the acid can irritate the throat and tissues of the upper airways, causing them to collapse while you snooze. Steer clear of spicy and greasy foods and refrain from eating close to bedtime or going to sleep with a full stomach, says Kolstanginova.
Click here to learn more about how to stop snoring!
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Sleeping IssuesBy Mary Bolster