Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Is There a Cure for Snoring?

There are many jokes about the guy who snores so loudly he rattles the windows and wakes the dead, but the affliction is funny neither for snorers nor those who live with a snorer. Snoring can contribute to a variety of health problems and wreak havoc on relationships. While there is no actual cure for snoring, there are solutions that can help alleviate the problem.

Snoring is caused by narrowed air passages and an obstructed air flow. As the airways narrow, the soft tissues in the throat vibrate and create the noise that leads to sleepless nights. It is estimated that 50 percent of adults snore on a regular basis, and about half of those fall into the chronic category. The chronic snorer typically has poor muscle tone in his throat, or an excess of throat tissue. Snorers are sometimes said to have a malady known as "floppy throat."

Though there is no cure for snoring, one can take steps to reduce the frequency and severity of his snoring bouts. The first, quite simply, is to go on a diet. Losing weight often leads to less snoring, or at least a milder version of the dreaded slumbering sonata. One should also avoid eating large meals shortly before retiring. Drinking alcohol or taking tranquilizers at bedtime can also increase the possibility of snoring.

Smoking is almost always a cause of snoring. Though stopping smoking is not a cure for snoring, kicking the habit will allow the airways to function more freely. Spring-loaded nasal strips have also been found to aid snorers in greatly reducing their volume.

Hundreds of over-the-counter sprays and pills make the claim of being a cure for snoring, but at best they only temporarily mask the symptoms. Again, the root causes of snoring are obstructed airways and being overweight. Sleeping on one’s side can sometimes help, as can raising the head of one's bed or sleeping on a specially designed orthopedic pillow. A mask that fits over the mouth and jaw, designed to facilitate breathing, has been a benefit for some people. In a worst case scenario, surgery can be performed on the nasal passages.

There are health risks associated with snoring, the least of which is repeated elbow jabs to the ribs by one who is condemned to sleep next to a snorer. An individual who snores will likely wake up many times per night, whether he recalls it or not. Sleep deprivation can lead to irritability and a weakened immune system.

The most serious risk for a snorer arises from sleep apnea. Chronic snorers often experience long pauses between breaths, sometimes ten seconds or more. At such times the heart beats both harder and faster than normal in order to raise dropping blood pressure. Sleep apnea can be a contributing factor to heart attack and stroke.

“Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone.”

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