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Posts tagged ‘Snoring’

Helpful Tips to Stop Snoring

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 include 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:

  • 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 though 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.

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.

The Ten Most Common Sleep Myths

Although sleep is something that we all need every day, there are many misconceptions that abound regarding this nightly necessity.  In an effort to help you ensure a thoroughly restful night, we’ve examined the ten most prevalent myths surrounding sleep.

1. Sleep isn’t really that important!  I can get by with just a few hours a night.

Incredibly, this idea remains a popular myth.  In today’s fast-paced society that’s overwhelmed by our desire for instant gratification, people all too often attempt to make up for lost time by cutting into their shut-eye.  The truth is that lack of sleep actually cuts down productivity by causing us to make more mental mistakes the next day.  Your body and brain operate far more efficiently when you get at least the recommended eight hours per night, as sleep is how both recover from our daily activities.  Although the brain does not entirely shut down at night, adequate rest allows it to process the information you took in the previous day.

2. I can wind down at the end of the day by watching TV or browsing the web.

Almost everyone has fallen prey to this belief at one time or other.  I remember that my own favorite way to fall asleep in college was to pop in a movie and wait until I felt drowsy.  The problem with that, as you may imagine, was that I usually ended up watching the whole movie.  It turns out that watching TV or surfing the Internet before bed will disturb your sleep environment and actually makes it more difficult for you to fall asleep.  Furthermore, if you let the television or computer run when you drop off, the ambient light and sound they create will interrupt your sleep cycle because your brain remains unconsciously aware of its surroundings, preventing you from acquiring the deep sleep you need at night.

3. Snoring is a normal thing some sleepers do.

For years, it was a generally-accepted belief that snoring was just a normal part of sleep for certain people.  Many people still believe that notion because the discovery that snoring is actually hard on the body was only made in the last half-century.  In fact, snoring only occurs when there is a narrowing, or constriction, of the air passages.  Such constriction will cause the soft,  “floppy” tissue in the back of your throat to vibrate, and create the [sometimes very noisy] snoring sound.  Snoring has been proven to be difficult on the heart [causing high blood pressure], and serious cases may lead to a diagnosis of sleep apnea, which can actually be fatal.

4. Naps don’t help if you’re sleepy.

I actually used to believe this one myself for a long time, and I avoided taking naps because I felt they only teased my appetite for sleep enough to make me grumpy when I woke up.  The truth of the matter, however, is that naps are a very good way to catch up on lost sleep: studies have shown that people perform cognitive tasks better after napping for one hour or more.  Be sure to time them properly, though, as taking a nap for longer than three hours or past three o’clock in the afternoon can make it difficult to fall asleep that night.

5. A lack of sleep during the week can be made up over the weekend.

This common sleep myth is possibly one of the worst habits to form, as sleeping long hours on the weekend while cutting down on them through the week can throw your body’s biological clock all out of whack.  Trying to catch up on your rest over the weekend will not actually reduce fatigue during the week either, and can lead to costly mistakes at work.

6. Getting just an hour less of sleep at night will not have any effect on daytime functioning.

This lack of sleep may not make you noticeably sleepy during the day, but even slightly less sleep than you’re used to can affect your ability to think properly and respond quickly, and it can even compromise your cardiovascular health and energy balance as well as your body’s ability to fight infections– particularly if the lack of sleep continues.  If you’re consistently not getting enough sleep, a sleep debt will eventually build up that will indeed make you excessively tired during the day.

7. Your body can quickly adjust to different sleep schedules.

In fact, your biological clock makes you naturally most alert during the daytime and drowsy as night falls.  Thus, even if you work the night shift, you’ll simply automatically feel sleepy when nighttime comes.  Most people do have the ability to “reset” their biological clock, but only with appropriately-timed cues, and even then, by just one to two hours per day at best.  It can take more than a week, therefore, for you to adjust to a dramatically altered sleep/wake cycle, such as that you’d encounter when traveling across several time zones or switching from first shift at work to third.

8. Sleep is a time when your body and brain shut down for rest and relaxation.

No evidence whatsoever exists to prove that any major organ [including the brain] or regulatory system in the body shuts down completely when you sleep.  Interestingly enough, certain physiological processes actually become more active while you sleep.  For example, your body’s secretion of particular hormones is accelerated when you rest, and the activity of the pathways in your brain needed for learning and memory is heightened.

9. Children who don’t get enough sleep at night will show signs of sleepiness during the day.

Unlike adults, children who don’t get enough sleep at night actually become more active, on average, than normal during the following day.  They may also show difficulty in both paying attention and behaving properly, so these children may be consequently misdiagnosed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD].

10. The main cause of insomnia is worry.

Although worry or stress may lead to a brief bout of insomnia, a persistent inability to fall asleep [or stay asleep] at night can be caused by a number of other factors.  Taking certain medications or suffering from a sleep disorder can easily keep you awake at night.  Other common causes of insomnia include depression, anxiety, asthma, arthritis, or a number of other medical conditions with symptoms which become more troublesome at night.

American Medical Network. Top 10 Sleep Myths. http://sleep.health.am/sleep/more/top-10-sleep-myths/. Retrieved 06.15.09.

National Institute of Mental Health. “Power Nap” Prevents Burnout; Morning Sleep Perfects a Skill.http://www.nimh.nih.gov/science-news/2002/power-nap-prevents-burnout-morning-sleep-perfects-a-skill.shtml. Retrieved 09.15.09