How to Stop Snoring

It's time to put this problem to bed

Snoring is the sound that occurs due to blocked air flow during sleep. The sound is produced by the tissues at the top of the airway striking against each other and vibrating. It occurs during sleep because of the body's position and relaxed state. Common causes of snoring include: older age, being overweight, tonsillitis, enlarged adenoids and sinus problems.

Man snoring in bed
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Severe cases of snoring can be disruptive enough to wake a person from sleep, which in turn affects their ability to function during the daytime. It can also affect your bed partner's quality of sleep, but before you resign to separate bedrooms you should know that with a proper diagnosis and treatment you can quit snoring.

Snoring is also a sign of sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder that causes people to stop breathing for brief periods of time while sleeping, usually for 10 seconds or more. The lack of oxygen stops blood flow to the brain and heart, and it can also lead to mood disorders, depression and left sided heart failure if it continues untreated.

Identifying the Cause of Your Snoring

Determining the cause of your snoring is as simple as visiting an otolaryngologist, commonly referred to as an ENT specialist. The doctor will be able to rule out any blockages caused by enlarged tonsils or other structures (turbinates, sinus tissue etc...). If these structures are enlarged, they may have to be surgically removed. If the structures appear to be normal in size and are not suspected to be the cause of your snoring, you may need to lose weight. A sleep study, or polysomnogram, is used to diagnose sleep apnea.

How to Stop Snoring

Have you ever wondered why getting someone to roll over stops their snoring? It's because their airway is in a position that doesn't allow optimal air flow. When they roll over the airway repositions and is more conducive to air flow. It's a quick fix, but it's not a permanent solution that should be substituted for medical care. With all we know about the serious dangers of sleep apnea, as well as how common it is, the days where you tell your bed partner to sleep in a different room or put in a pair of ear plugs should be long gone.

The sizes of some enlarged structures, such as tonsils and adenoids, can be reduced with steroid medications or antibiotics if there is an active infection. Unfortunately, this doesn't always work, and sometimes the side effects outweigh the benefits of these medications. The only guaranteed way to completely clear enlarged structures is with surgery.

Sleep apnea is often treated through weight loss or the use of a CPAP machine. A CPAP - Continuous Positive Air Pressure - is a fitted mask that delivers a constant flow of pressurized air that helps to maintain an open airway. It is very effective but some people find the mask uncomfortable to wear at night. You may need to try different types of masks or nasal pillows until you find one that you can sleep with comfortably. 

Surgery is invasive and may be expensive depending on if you have health insurance and how much it covers. As previously mentioned CPAP machines may make it difficult for some people to sleep. For people who don't have enlarged structures or sleep apnea, losing weight is the best way to stop snoring. Do not take sedatives or consume alcohol before bed either as this will worsen your snoring and sleep apnea.

Why Do Children Snore?

Approximately 2 to 4 percent of the pediatric population suffers from obstructive sleep apnea. The main culprit? Enlarged tonsils and adenoids. If your child snores, it would be wise to take them to an ENT specialist to rule out these problems. Untreated sleep apnea in children can cause mood disturbances, depression, learning deficits, ADHD, bedwetting and developmental delays.

A small percentage of children inherit naturally short airways, and certain disorders are associated with shortened airways, including Down syndrome and Pierre Robin syndrome. Other facial structure abnormalities can also cause sleep apnea. The rest of the snoring pediatric population is likely suffering from childhood obesity. 

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  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Snoring. Updated August 4, 2016.

  2. American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery Foundation. Pediatric Sleep-disordered Breathing. Updated December 2018.

  3. Cielo CM, Montalva FM, Taylor JA. Craniofacial disorders associated with airway obstruction in the neonateSemin Fetal Neonatal Med. 2016;21(4):254–262. doi:10.1016/j.siny.2016.03.001