Are you sick of being labeled a lumberjack in the morning? Is “sawing logs” during the night causing you grief? Well, if you’re like me and have a problem with snoring, read on for some tips to help you out.

To make the most of your efforts to stop snoring, it’s helpful to understand what exactly causes you to snore.  Simply put, snoring is a result of the narrowing of your air passages. When the air passage is constricted, the soft, floppy tissue in your throat vibrates and creates the snoring sound.  The narrowing of the air passage can be accredited to several different reasons, but the two that are most frequently associated with snoring are poor sleep posture and abnormalities of the soft tissues in your throat.

Abnormalities, you say?  Well, yes — but don’t worry.  I promise you’re not weird or anything, and you’re certainly not alone. Chances are that if you’re a middle aged man, these irregularities will apply to you. Men naturally have narrower air passages than women, and that explains why it’s mostly men who are condemned to the couch at night. Another reason for such irregularities can be attributed to heredity: if your mom or dad snored, chances are they passed it along to you.  Other factors that can cause your throat to relax more and create that unpleasant snoring sound includes smoking, a history of asthma or allergies, alcohol, certain medications, and just being middle aged.

Now that we’ve pinpointed some of the reasons you snore, let’s take a look at what you can do to stop the problem. The first step is to make some small changes to your bedtime routine, and the following are a few tips to help keep the sawmill quiet when you get between the covers.

Tips to Prevent Snoring

  • Sleep on your side — If you snore while laying on your back, turn on your side. If you can’t seem to help lying on your back, try the tennis ball trick: simply sew a tennis ball on the back of your sleep shirt. The ball will create an uncomfortable feeling when you start to roll onto your back that will help keep you on your side.
  • Elevate your head — Elevating your head will help you breathe easier. To do this, you could either sleep on a thicker, firmer pillow, or even try raising the head of your entire bed some four to five inches, and thereby sleep without a pillow. If you have an adjustable bed, experiment with keeping it raised while you sleep.
  • Avoid eating before bedtime — This is recommended because certain foods and beverages can increase mucus in your air passages.  Specifically, you should avoid high-fat, milky products [or even soy milk products, for that matter].
  • Avoid alcohol and certain medications before bedtime — These items can increase relaxation of both the throat muscles and the tongue, which will narrow your air passages and restrict breathing.
  • Lose weight — One of the most effective ways to end snoring is by simply losing weight, even a little bit. The reason: your throat contains fatty tissues too, and the fewer you have, the more open your air passage becomes.
  • Clear your nasal passages — That “stuffed-up” sensation means that inhalation is being blocked.  Such a blockage of the air passages through the nose will create a one-way vacuum through your mouth and consequently increase snoring.  Be sure to blow your nose and apply a nasal strip before you go to sleep.
  • Stop smoking — This is probably the most obvious tip to end snoring because just about everyone knows that smoking is one of the unhealthiest things you can do. If you cannot give up smoking, however, try to not smoke at least before you go to bed, as it will increase relaxation of the throat muscles and significantly restrict your breathing.
Sleeping Cartoon

If your snoring persists in spite of taking these steps, you may need to seek professional medical help.  Observation by a either a dentist or an ear, nose, and throat specialist may reveal specific problems that are beyond your own control, and in these instances, you may be prescribed the use of particular devices such as a CPAP [Continuous Positive Airway Pressure] machine, or a mouthpiece which will keep your air passages open throughout the night. Some extreme cases may even require surgery.

Whether you’re a mild snorer or someone at risk of having a chronic snoring disorder that requires medical attention, one thing is certain: you need to monitor the problem and get some help if your own efforts to control it don’t work.  Snoring, believe it or not, can be both an indicator and a cause of serious health risks that can take a toll on your body.  A lack of air through those passages at night will create pressure on your heart, which is often linked to high-blood pressure.  Just a simple case of snoring is often not the problem, and sleep apnea may instead be the proper diagnosis.  This disorder occurs when the air passage is so constricted during the night that breathing completely stops, and the sufferer will often wake up for a second to gasp for the next breath– thus interrupting their REM cycle.  When REM sleep is interrupted, a fatigued feeling is prevalent throughout the next day.  In the worst cases, the sleeper may not wake up at all, and the problem can be fatal.

My best advice for all you lumberjacks out there: try to get some relief from the tips I’ve listed, but above all, don’t ignore the problem.  It could be more serious than you think.