Novelist Anthony Burgess once said, “Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone”.
It’s a saying that hits home for many. Chronic snoring is an embarrassing problem for sufferers and a source of aggravation for their loved ones. From loving and maybe not so loving nudges to ear plugs, the weary-eyed partners of snorers often finally move on to seek shelter from the nightly onslaught in a far away quiet room in the house.
(Single folks are not immune as any overnight trips with friends, business partners, potential mates becomes a source of anxiety and embarrassment.)
Snoring occurs because during sleep, the muscles that helps to keep the airway open relaxes and the resulting narrowing and turbulence can cause vibrations that lead to snoring.
After a more serious condition called Obstructive Sleep Apnea has been sufficiently ruled out, try these steps to help with snoring:
- Avoid alcohol and use of sedative medications. These will worsen collapsibility of the airway and often result in worsening of snoring.
- Lose weight if obesity is a contributing factor.
- Avoid late night eating and acid reflux trigger foods. Acid reflux may worsen snoring by causing airway swelling.
- Establish a regular sleep pattern. Healthy sleep schedules can help you sleep better and can minimize snoring.
Try elevating your head or sleeping on your side (there are various pillows to promote a more favorable sleep position). The tennis ball trick (tennis ball sewn on the back of the shirt) may work for some to promote side sleeping, or an oral appliance to advance your jaw forward may help.
Optimize Your Nose
Airway dynamics are improved when the nose is working properly. A congested nose can lead to or worsen snoring. From allergies, colds, nasal septum deviation, turbinate swelling, nasal valve problems, polyps, chronic sinusitis, adenoid enlargement, there are many causes to nasal congestion. Nasal saline irrigation and or nasal steroid maybe tried prior to bedtime, or nasal strips may offer temporary relief.
For your snoring, an in-office procedure or nasal/sinus surgery maybe indicated. Here are some potential solutions:
When trying the above doesn’t work or is not feasible, procedures to reduce or eliminate snoring can offer relief. Procedures are typically performed in the office under local anesthesia, typically taking no more than 20-30 minutes and pain is minimal. Most people resume normal activity the next day.
Radiofrequency Procedure (Coblation or Somnoplasty): A thin radiofrequency wand is used to create small lesions under the surface of tissues such as the palate and/or the back of the tongue. Over time, tissue becomes stiffened and bulkiness is reduced. Typically 2-3 treatments are needed.
Pillar Implant: Three to four small synthetic fibers are inserted into the soft palate to create stiffening resulting in tissue that is resistant to vibrations.
- Uvulopalatal flap: A portion of the uvular tip is removed and the uvula is moved forward on the soft palate where it is sutured. The procedure may be performed in the office but is more invasive than the radiofrequency or the pillar procedures. If large tonsils are present, tonsillectomy can help and is performed under general anesthesia..
There are many devices and procedures and it’s easy to get confused by the myriad of choices, each touting its purported benefits. Every person has a unique life story, personal goals, and anatomy. Snoring evaluation starts with a thorough understanding of the problem combined with an expert upper airway examination to localize the site of restriction to find the most appropriate treatment. Spouses/bed partners are encouraged to come.