How to silence snoring

Snoring by itself is generally harmless,but it can be annoying, especially for your bed partner. Fortunately, you can take steps to alleviate the problem. Start by making lifestyle changes and trying simple home remedies to alleviate the problem. You can also try one of the many products marketed as stop-snoring aids.

But if you snore and you also wake up gasping for air or frequently feel sleepy or tired during the day, you likely have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can cause hypertension and more serious medical problems. Consult a doctor if your snoring affects the quality of your sleep.

Lifestyle changes and home remedies

You can try these do-it-yourself suggestions to help keep your airway open during sleep:

Avoid alcohol—or don't drink alcohol within three hours of bedtime.This will help prevent your airway muscles from becoming slack while you sleep.

Do not take medications that relax your muscles in the evening. Benzodiazepines are one major group of medications to avoid. Sometimes called tranquilizers or sedatives, these medications include alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan), which are usually used to treat anxiety. Benzodiazepines also may be prescribed for insomnia. Examples sometimes prescribed for this reason include estazolam (ProSom) or temazepam (Restoril). But these medications are not recommended for long-term treatment of insomnia (more than two to four weeks). Like alcohol, these drugs may relax muscles in the throat.

Lose weight if you are overweight or obese. Extra fat tissue in the neck and throat can narrow the airways. Losing some weight could help to open the airways for someone who is overweight or obese, although many people who are lean also snore.

Try home remedies for nasal obstruction issues. If your nose is stuffy due to mucus, try rinsing your sinuses with saline. If you have allergies, reduce dust mites and pet dander in your bedroom or use an allergy medication. If swollen nasal tissues are the problem, a humidifier or medication may reduce swelling.

If you smoke, quit. In addition to smoking's many other negative health effects, people who smoke are also more likely to snore. Possible reasons include nightly nicotine withdrawal, which can disrupt sleep, as well as increased swelling and irritation in the upper airway. In fact, even secondhand smoke from another member of your household may increase your risk of snoring.

Sleep on your side or elevate your head. When you sleep flaton your back, your tongue fallsback and presses against the topof your airway, so sleeping onyour side may help. To help you stay on your side, try pressing a body pillow(a long, oversized pillow) against your back. You can also wear a small fannypack filled with tennis balls, or tape a tennis ball or rolled-up pair of socksto the back of your pajamas. This makes lying on your back uncomfortable.

Or you can try elevating your head by using an extra pillow or a wedgepillow, or by propping up the head of your bed using blocks of wood underthe top of the bed frame.

These lifestyle changes and home remedies may help with simple snoring. But if you think you may have sleep apnea, make an appointment with your doctor.

To learn more about the impact of snoring and sleep apnea on your health, check out Snoring and Sleep Apnea from Harvard Medical School.

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