It’s a bear. It’s a train. Donna Arand, clinical director of the Kettering Sleep Disorder Center, Dayton, US, explains “snoring can be very mild or very loud”. As a person falls asleep, the muscles in the mouth begin to relax. If there is extra tissue in the mouth, the tissue will also relax, causing it to droop and vibrate as the person breathes, thus creating the snoring sound. The extra tissue makes it difficult for the air to get through the back of the throat. The harder it is for the air to get through the airway, the more the tissue vibrates and the louder the snoring becomes. An elongated uvula, enlarged tonsils, adenoids or a thick and low soft palate can cause the extra tissue that blocks the airways.
How do I stop the snoring?
There’s no simple way to stop someone from snoring. To find a home remedy before visiting the doctor, there are several options. David Monjot, a pulmonologist at the Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, Ohio, recommends sewing half a tennis ball to the back of a T-shirt so that when people begin to sleep on their back, “it wakens them slightly” and they move back to their side. Other suggestions include nose sprays. Keep in mind, though, that none of these can guarantee someone relief from snoring.
Can snoring be a serious problem?
Kevin Huban, a diplomat of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and clinical director of the Sleep and Wake Center at Miami Valley Hospital, explains that snoring can be a sign of other health problems. Heavy and loud snoring can often be a sign of sleep apnea, which is characterized as a pause in your breathing as you sleep. “It sounds as if you’re stopping your breathing, and following it up with a snort or a gasp,” Huban says. The more serious the sleep apnea, the more often the person has to wake up in the middle of the night to clear the airways. Pauses in breath can last from 10 seconds to as long as over a minute. When the oxygen level gets low enough, the person will wake up. “There are certain things that can aggravate sleep apnea,” Arand explains. These include:
• Weight gain.
• Alcohol or medications that slow the body functions and relax muscles in the airway.
• Sleeping on the back.
There are ways to treat adults and children who suffer from sleep apnea.
• If the patient is overweight, weight loss is key.
• Eliminate smoking in the house (this includes eliminating outdoor smoking as well, if possible).
• Address allergies with medication or take environmental measures.
• Keep the patient from sleeping on his back.
• Remove tonsils or adenoids.
• Remove excess tissue through a procedure named Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP).
• For more severe sleep apnea, CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) is a common treatment, which involves a small machine that helps patients breathe through the night. Jennifer Osterday/NYT