Sep. 18, 2009 Ordinary, loud snoring doesn’t seem to be harmful, according to the September issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter. But snorers still may want to seek treatment to stop snoring, reduce embarrassment and improve sleep for themselves and their bed partner.
Snoring is caused by relaxed and sagging tissues. As sleep deepens, the tongue relaxes, as do the soft tissues of the throat and the roof of the mouth (soft palate). The tissues can sag into the airway, causing it to narrow. As air is inhaled or exhaled through the narrowed opening, the relaxed tissues of the soft palate vibrate. The result is snoring. Though most snoring is harmless, snorers should consult a doctor to rule out sleep apnea, a serious health concern where breathing stops during sleep.
For ordinary snoring, a doctor will likely discuss conservative treatment options first. Assistive devices or, as a last resort, surgery, can help reduce snoring. Mayo Clinic Health Letter covers these treatment approaches:
Lose weight: Extra bulk narrows airways, contributing to snoring.
Avoid alcohol: Alcohol consumption can cause excessive muscle relaxation. Avoiding alcohol for at least four hours before bedtime may help.
Relieve nasal obstruction: Adhesive nasal strips (Breathe Right, others) or corticosteroid nasal sprays can help reduce nasal obstruction that can contribute to snoring.
Change sleep positions: In back sleepers, the tongue can sag and narrow the airway during sleep. A doctor can suggest techniques to learn to sleep comfortably in other positions.
Stop smoking: Smoking is associated with an increased risk of snoring. People who stop have a lower rate of snoring.
Try assistive devices: The most effective treatment for snoring is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. It delivers pressurized air through a mask, keeping the upper airway open during sleep. Some people have difficulty wearing a mask at night. An oral appliance from a specially trained dentist or orthodontist can help keep the throat open, too, and may be less obtrusive than a CPAP machine.
Consider surgery: Several surgical procedures can help reduce snoring, either by cutting away excess mouth and throat tissue or by stiffening tissues of the soft palate to prevent vibration and sagging. Surgery is considered a last resort because it can cause side effects and complications. Typically, there’s only a 50 percent chance that snoring will improve over the long term.
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