Everyone knows that getting a quality night’s sleep can be a game changer. Studies consistently show that clocking in a solid seven to nine hours (the recommended shut-eye for adults, according to the National Sleep Foundation) can lead to improvements in mental health, physical health, brain function and more. But if you’re a chronic snorer—or your partner is—the benefits of good sleep can be elusive.
“I have people who are almost in tears when they come see me, and for good reason,” says Kathleen Yaremchuk, M.D., a sleep medicine specialist and Ear, Nose and Throat doctor (ENT) at Henry Ford Health. “The partner of a snorer loses about an hour of sleep a night, so that means within a week you’ve lost an entire night’s sleep.”
Operating without adequate rest can make you or your bed partner less productive, more irritable and lead to a host of other physical and mental health issues.
So what can you do to quell snoring and achieve maximum rest? Dr. Yaremchuk offers a few tips:
1. Sleep On Your Side
Some people snore no matter what position they sleep in, but most people snore worse on their back than their side. When you sleep, your throat muscles relax and your tongue collapses into your throat, thus causing breathing issues. One solution: Place a large, heavy pillow behind you to prevent you from rolling onto your back. Another: Prop up the head of the bed a few inches so your head rests on an incline. A last resort? Sew a tennis ball in the back of your shirt, making it too uncomfortable to sleep on your back.
2. Avoid Alcohol
Most people recognize that when they drink, they’re more likely to snore, Dr. Yaremchuk says. But that doesn’t stop them from drinking. Trouble is, alcohol works as a muscle relaxer, and it causes more relaxation of the tongue than any other muscle in the body. So while a glass of wine may help you fall asleep initially, it typically decreases the overall quality of your sleep. (And heavy drinking can lead to further issues.)
3. Drop The Weight
Snoring becomes more common with age, and with aging often comes added weight—and not just in your stomach, waist or hips; your neck and even your tongue can bulk up too. Luckily, Dr. Yaremchuk says, losing just 10 or 20 pounds is often enough to turn you from a snorer to a non-snorer.
4. Exercise Your Throat
Strengthening the muscles in your upper respiratory tract can help you breathe better at night. To give those muscles a work out try vocal exercises like singing or repeating each vowel aloud several times a day.
5. Monitor Medications
Contrary to what you may think, sleep aids like ZzzQuil or stronger sedatives like Valium can make snoring worse since they relax muscles. Antihistamines, however, can help reduce nasal congestion and lead to quieter breathing.
6. Try Appliances
Like antihistamines, nasal strips can also help open nasal passages, as can a neti pot or a humidifier, which adds moisture to the air and helps loosen mucus and promote nasal drainage. Anti-snoring mouthpieces can also help chronic snorers by helping to tighten the tissues in your airway. And if all else fails, ear plugs for the non-snorer can lead to restful shut-eye.
With so many obstacles to scoring a good night’s sleep (stress, screen time, insomnia, restless legs syndrome, etc.) snoring can often get overlooked as a source of sleep deprivation. “We often laugh about it, but snoring is a serious condition,” Dr. Yaremchuk says.
To make an appointment with a sleep specialist at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).
Kathleen Yaremchuk, M.D., is the Henry Ford Medical Group’s Chair of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, and is a member of the division of sleep medicine. She sees patients with a variety of ear, nose and throat related issues and has been involved in multiple clinical trials and procedural developments that have improved the lives of many.