Snoring is an issue which can often keep partners and loved ones awake, but it can also be a problem for the snorers themselves.
People who snore lightly or infrequently, referred to as grade one snorers, are not as likely to encounter related health risk, but those who snore on a habitual basis (grade two and three snorers) will often find that their daytime function is affected, and their snoring may be indicative of a more serious issue.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition where a person’s airways become blocked while they are asleep. After about 10 seconds, the brain, deprived of oxygen, will force the body awake or into a lighter stage of sleep in order to recover the breathing rhythm it needs.
For a person with severe OSA, this process can occur once every couple of minutes, with the nightly number of episodes even reaching the triple digits. While the excessive daytime sleepiness caused by OSA-related sleep disruption is an obvious safety risk for those working with dangerous equipment or getting behind the wheel, it can also lead to raised blood pressure levels and heart problems.
OSA will require medical attention from a doctor, and usually treatment in the form of a device to assist nighttime breathing. Heavy snorers who don’t have OSA can sometimes benefit from oral devices too, but there are other lifestyle measures they can take to help them snore less.
Here are five healthy changes a snorer can make to give themselves and those around them a better night’s sleep.
Drink Alcohol Responsibly
It’s a long-held misconception that alcohol helps you sleep. It doesn’t. In fact, it can, and often will, make your night much less comfortable, particularly when partaken in shortly before bedtime.
The myth most likely stems from the notion that alcohol is a relaxant, and it is, but it doesn’t necessarily help you sleep better. The relaxing agents in alcohol actually loosen tissues in the palate and airways, which are the surfaces that vibrate and make noise during snoring. This narrows the air passages too, so that the body has to work harder to get the oxygen it needs.
Alcohol also typically reduces the number of times you’ll enter periods of REM sleep during the night, so that you won’t feel anywhere near as refreshed when you wake up.
Those looking to reduce their snoring habits can stand to benefit by practising moderation. This means keeping to within recommended lower-risk limits (not more than 14 units per week) and having at least two alcohol-free days per week.
Snoring and OSA are just two items in the long list of reasons to give up smoking. Tobacco smoke can increase bronchial inflammation and swelling in the airways, making breathing during sleep harder, and in turn making snoring louder.
Several studies have linked smoking with OSA and suggested a level of co-dependence between the two. Stopping is generally viewed as the recommended course of action for those with the condition or at increased risk (just as it is for anyone else).
Eat Healthy and Exercise
Being overweight plays perhaps the most significant role in snoring and OSA, due to the presence of fatty tissue around the neck and airway causing an obstruction.
Eating a healthy and balanced diet and getting enough exercise are key in tackling snoring and lowering the risk of related problems.
Drink Plenty of Water
Many of us have learned the lesson of not drinking too much water before bedtime the hard way, when we have to rise several times in the night to go to the toilet.
However, getting enough fluids earlier on throughout the rest of the day is essential for those who want to limit their snoring. Dehydration can cause tissues in the nasal channels and throat to become sticky and cohere to airway walls, again leading to obstruction and more noise when air passes through.
Those looking to get snoring under control should try to meet the recommended two litres (which is about eight cups or four small bottles) of water per day.
Keep a Clean Bed
A dirty, unkempt sleeping area, aside from being a hygiene issue, can cause several health problems — snoring is one of these.
Over time, dust mites collect in duvets, pillows, and bed sheets. These can cause irritation when breathed in, particularly for those with allergic rhinitis. The more inflamed the airways become, the more likely snoring is. To prevent this, maintain a clean bed. Bed sheets should be washed once a week and pillows should be fluffed every couple of days and washed every couple of months (as should your duvet).