Both women and men are closely familiar with this common phenomenon, which usually becomes even more common with age: you get into bed exhausted after a long day, looking forward to a long, sweet sleep. But soon after you close your eyes you find yourself interrupted by the sounds coming from your partner’s side of the bed.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 90 million American adults occasionally snore during sleep, with 37 million of them doing so on a regular basis. Men usually start to snore in their late 30s and 40s which then worsens after the age of 50. Women, on the other hand, typically begin to snore after menopause. So what exactly causes snoring?
What causes snoring?
Snoring may happen occasionally or on a regular basis. The snoring sound is created due to a vibration in the throat which usually occurs during inhalation, and caused by a narrowing of the upper airway. When the airways are blocked and air is trying to force its way in, the tissue at the back of the throat vibrates - and that’s the sound we hear.
The most common reasons for snoring are allergies, a cold or flu, excess weight, sleep position or over-relaxation of the mouth and throat muscles during sleep. Sleeping pills and sedatives, alcohol, nicotine and cannabis all have a bad effect on the quality of sleep, and are likely to contribute significantly to snoring during sleep. If none of the above seems to be the cause, it might just be your anatomy - large tonsils or deviated septum, which can only be diagnosed by a qualified professional.
How to alleviate snoring?
Snoring usually occurs during periods of deep sleep, which is the most restorative part of sleep. It usually results in sleepiness throughout the day, even if you experience a full night’s sleep.
Fortunately, there are various ways and techniques to relieve snoring, and treatment will depend on the severity of the problem. Here’re some effective ways to improve your breathing during sleep, alleviate snoring and reduce daytime fatigue.
Sleep on your side.
Sleeping on your back makes the base of the tongue and soft palate fall, resulting in vibrations in the voice and blockage of air passages during sleep. Changing your position and sleeping on your side can prevent this from happening by creating a greater space on the back of the mouth, allowing air to flow freely. While falling asleep on your side is under your control, you may unintentionally turn on your back during the night. To prevent this from happening, try placing a tennis ball under your back and inside your shirt. It will make sleeping on your back uncomfortable and will force you to turn back on your side. Another method to ensure you are sleeping on your side is to use a ‘body pillow’ (sometimes sold as pregnancy pillows, although they fit men and non-pregnant women alike).
Reposition your neck.
You may be surprised to find that your neck’s position also plays a role on how to improve sleep. If the angle of your neck is too low or high, it might lead to breathing difficulties as well as snoring. Your neck should be lifted just enough to be aligned with your body, so your airway is not blocked.
Try using a wedge pillow or a snore pillow to support your neck during sleep. Both are designed to position your head in a way that enables better airflow during sleep. You can also use the pillows you already have at home by elevating your head and chest to a 30-60 degrees angle. Make sure not the lift them too much, as you’re likely to wake up with a sore neck in the morning.
Another way to support your neck is adjusting the head of your bed to lift your head until your neck is aligned with the rest of your body.
Excessive weight increases the amount of tissue in the throat and neck, which may constrict your windpipe, and therefore make airway obstruction more likely. People who lose weight can often reduce the severity of their breathing difficulties or snoring during the night, and even eliminate them altogether.
Reducing weight by keeping a healthy diet and exercising regularly can reduce snoring significantly and even eliminate it completely in people who are overweight. When obesity is not the only cause of snoring, reducing it can still have a positive effect on other treatments’ efficacy.
Asking yourself how to sleep better? Would you like to learn more about ways to alleviate snoring? Download Dayzz Sleep App to get a personal sleep assessment and sleep training plan customized to your needs and progress. Learn more about what’s keeping you awake and get constant support and guidance on your way to improve your sleep. Start with getting a personal sleep assessment!