Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the foundations of good health. Sleeping well means you function better in your daily life, you are more equipped to accomplish tasks efficiently, and of course, you feel better too.
However, sleeping can be harder than it seems, and plenty of Americans struggle with it. One of the most common, but also most treatable causes of bad sleep, is snoring.
What Is Snoring?
There are a number of reasons you may struggle to sleep well at night, but one of the most common is snoring. 90 million Americans snore. It’s a common problem that can be caused by multiple factors.
Snoring happens when the tissue in your mouth, tongue, and throat relax until they partially block your airway. These relaxed tissues then vibrate and the airflow becomes more forceful, so the snoring gets louder.
What Causes Snoring?
Snoring happens when your airway is obstructed by relaxed tissues in your mouth and throat, but why do those tissues relax? Everyone is different, so the exact answer varies.
The unique anatomy of your mouth can make you more susceptible to snoring, as well as lifestyle choices like smoking or alcohol consumption. You may find you are prone to snoring when you have a cold or during allergy season—when your airway is already blocked before you fall asleep.
Why Is Snoring So Bad?
While we often hear jokes about snoring, the problems with it go far beyond keeping your partner up at night. Snoring can be indicative of greater health problems, and poor sleep in the long term can have a very negative impact on your overall health.
When Should I Seek Help For Snoring?
Snoring every once in a while is normal. However, it is often a problem that gets worse over time, so if you suspect your snoring is intensifying, communicate your concerns to a professional.
Be on the lookout for an overall decrease in your quality of sleep, exhaustion during the day, being less productive during your regular tasks, or if you stop breathing during the night, as these are all symptoms of sleep apnea.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder, which is often diagnosed after the patient suffers from snoring. Sleep apnea is when breathing stops and starts repeatedly throughout the night.
This sleep disorder is very common, and can be treated by a medical professional after tests and a formal diagnosis is made. If you suspect you are suffering from sleep apnea, you don’t need to wait until your yearly checkup with your general practitioner, you can seek treatment from your dentist.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms and Risks
If you are not sure if you are suffering from sleep apnea, or just not having a good rest for other reasons, some common sleep apnea symptoms include:
- Daytime sleepiness.
- Mood swings.
Sleep apnea is so common, you may question the need for treatment at all. Afterall, plenty of people snore! However, it is still important to seek help for any and all medical problems.
When left untreated, sleep apnea raises the risk for additional serious health problems like:
- High blood pressure.
- Heart disease.
And one of the ways you can help your sleep apnea is by treating your snoring!
So How Can I Stop Snoring?
Snoring has many causes and therefore many solutions. You may have to try out a few to determine which one will have the biggest impact on your snoring. There are plenty of treatments and methods to help you reduce snoring and sleep better.
For immediate relief, there are some lifestyle changes you can make to get yourself on the path to more restful sleep.
Some of the most common ways to lessen your snoring include the following:
1. Sleep on your side.
Sleeping on your side, as opposed to your back or stomach, helps to prevent the soft tissues in your mouth, tongue, and throat from relaxing back and cutting off your airway. The more you can open your airway, the less you will snore.
2. Elevate the head of your bed.
Besides sleeping on your side, you might also try sleeping in a more upright position. Just as people with a cold or the flu need to sleep elevated to help breathe while they’re congested, sleeping more upright can help reduce snoring as well.
3. Stop smoking.
Smoking causes irritation to the sensitive membranes in your nose and throat, which can cause them to close up and block your airway. This can hinder your breathing both while you’re sleeping and while awake.
4. Reduce alcohol consumption.
Drinking alcohol, or using other sedatives, causes your body to relax—including the mouth, tongue, and throat muscles. You need to help your airway remain clear to reduce snoring. A good rule of thumb is to not drink alcohol within 2 hours of bedtime.
5. Lose weight.
If you are overweight, you have an overall increased amount of fatty tissue in your body. That extra fatty tissue makes it more likely that your airway becomes partially blocked during the night. Losing excess weight can help you breathe better. Be sure to follow a physician’s recommendations when exercising and dieting.
6. Use breathing strips or treat chronic allergies.
Some excessive snoring is due to allergies or sinus problems rather than things in the back of your throat. Breathing strips that you can get at any regular store are meant to open your nasal passages for better breathing at night.
If you have chronic allergies blocking your nasal passages, ask your doctor about a safe daily medication you can take to reduce those symptoms.
7. Get a sleep apnea mouthguard.
A sleep apnea mouthguard is a plastic mouthpiece to alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea. Whether you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea or not, snoring still leads to less sleep at night. Your dentist can fit you with a mouthguard that gently adjusts your jaw to keep your airways open while you sleep.
Opening up the airway prevents snoring, and improves sleep quality. There are also devices that are designed to hold your tongue in place to prevent your tongue from blocking your airway. These are called tongue retaining devices, and they can offer an alternative form of relief to the more common jaw readjusting devices.
8. Use a CPAP machine.
The most common method for treating sleep apnea—as well as excessive snoring—is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. This device uses a mask that you place over your nose and mouth while sleeping. While there, it keeps air flowing into your lungs when your snoring or sleep apnea might otherwise interrupt that breathing process.
9. Try Invisalign clear aligners or other orthodontic options.
One reason you might be snoring is from your jaw or teeth being out of alignment. By correcting this alignment through the use of Invisalign clear aligners or other orthodontic options like traditional braces, you can realign your jaw for better sleeping and reduced snoring for the long term.
10. Consider surgical treatments.
If you have tried all these other changes and are still not getting the relief you need, talk to your dentist about surgical options. Some offices can use a dental laser to tighten and shrink the soft tissues and muscles in the back of the throat so they won’t block your airway when they relax. Other procedures include surgeries to simply remove excess tissues in the back of the throat.
Find Out More About Sleep Apnea and Snoring Treatments With Mountain Springs Dental
Dentists often have special training to diagnose the cause of your snoring, and offer treatment plans to solve your snoring problem and improve your health. Your dentist can help you identify if simple solutions can be found, or if a more robust treatment plan is needed for obstructive sleep apnea.
Questions or concerns about sleep apnea? Give our office a call today! We’re here to answer your questions and put any of your concerns at ease.