Snoring Case Studies and Snoring Research
“Snoring is a primary symptom of sleep apnea, although not all people who snore have sleep apnea.” —Steven Lamm, M.D.Steven Lamm, M.D. has reported extensively on a variety of medical issues on television and radio. A great communicator, Dr. Lamm has been the long-time medical correspondent for The View (ABC-TV) because of his ability to talk to women about their important health issues, and the health issues of the men they love. As a practicing Manhattan internist for over twenty-five years, Dr. Lamm has provided medical care and compassion to thousands of patients. Dr. Lamm has published four books that have explored the intersection of medicine, science, and health.
Mike had put on more than 40 pounds in the year since I had last seen him. It turns out that the extra weight caused the problem he and his wife so urgently wanted to talk to me about.
“I have to sleep in another room,” said Stephanie, Mike’s wife who had accompanied him to the appointment. “He snores louder than a fog horn and it’s impossible for me to sleep with him anymore. As you can imagine, this hasn’t been good for our sex lives. Even our kids are complaining about the snoring.”
It’s estimated that upwards of 45% of people snore at least occasionally. Granted, millions of people snore, but except for keeping people awake, is snoring really a problem?
Yes and no.
Some snoring typically means additional noise while sleeping. Some snores can exceed 90 decibels, the federal standard for noise in the American workplace. However, chronic snoring may signify that the airways shut down periodically throughout the night, depriving the lungs of adequate oxygen. This is a serious medical problem called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and it can significantly increase the risk of dying from heart-related ailments.
Why Do You Snore?
Snoring happens when the muscles that keep the airways open carrying oxygen from the nose and throat to the lungs relax during sleep. This causes the airways to collapse, requiring more forceful inhalation to breathe. Hence, the nocturnal trumpet blasts.
In addition to sleep apnea, snoring can be brought on by enlarged tonsils and adenoids, nasal polyps, a tumor growing on the tongue, a deviated septum, an allergy or bad cold, sleeping in an overly heated room, overconsumption of alcohol, sleeping pills, and obesity.
Snoring is predominantly a male adult ailment but children between the ages of three and thirteen will snore when they have large tonsils and adenoids, or when they have a heavy cold. As they mature physically, most children will naturally stop snoring. However, research now suggests that chronic snoring in childhood can lead to attention and hyperactivity problems in some children.
As I told Mike, who is 43, adults generally start to snore in their late 30s and 40s, and the incidence increases when they pass the age of 50. No one is certain why weight gain causes snoring, but it will, perhaps because of increased fat in the structures around the throat. This cuts down on the size of the air passages through which you breathe. If you have a tendency to snore, it will get worse when you gain weight, and if you gain enough weight, you may also develop sleep apnea.
Is Snoring Related to Sleep Apnea?
To rule out the possibility of sleep apnea, I had Mike take an at-home sleep apnea test using WatchPAT. This is an easy-to-use device that monitors all the critical facets of sleep without having to go to a sleep center for testing.
“Okay, Doc, now what do I do?” A week later, a flustered Mike sat before me in my office. His WatchPAT test report indicated that he did not have sleep apnea.
“Not having sleep apnea is great news,” I explained. “You couldn’t ask for a better diagnosis than that. Now, we will just have to work on some snoring antidotes for you to try.”
I told him that losing weight through daily exercise was a great way to reduce the nocturnal decibels, Also, avoiding all types of alcohol in the evening could help. Alcohol causes greater-than-normal relaxation of the throat muscles during sleep, and this will cause even a non-snorer to begin snoring.
I reviewed sleep positions with him. The best sleep positions are on the side and the stomach. “Don’t lie on your back because this position may lead to snoring,” I said.
To make sure he slept on his side, I told him to attach a sock with tennis balls inside it to the back of his sleepwear. When he starts to roll over on his back while sleeping, the uncomfortable feeling from the tennis balls will quickly cause him to return to his side.
Other Anti-Snoring Measures to Employ:
- Make sure there is a good flow of fresh air in the bedroom. When the room is hot and dry, nasal passages become clogged during sleep, and this often leads to snoring. If necessary, use a dehumidifier in the bedroom to keep the nasal passages moist while sleeping.
- Decongest. If you have allergies or nasal congestion due to a cold, this can restrict air passages and cause snoring. Occasional use of a nasal decongestant before bedtime helps to keep the airways open while you sleep. However, chronic use of a decongestant is to be avoided except under medical advice and supervision.
- Tilt. Place bricks under the legs at the head of your bed. Tilting the head of your bed upward may help relieve chronic snoring.
- Adhesive nasal strips. While certainly not a help for all snorers, the small adhesive strips you can purchase at your pharmacy have a spring-like action that pulls the nostrils open slightly, reducing nasal-airway resistance. For those whose snoring is linked to some types of nasal obstruction, these strips may prove beneficial in reducing or eliminating your snoring altogether.
- If you smoke, quit. Smoking causes mucus buildup, inflammation and swelling of the pharynx, as well as bronchial congestion, all of which contribute to snoring.