Ask Your Pharmacist
My partner’s snoring is keeping me awake. Is there anything that can help?
Almost half of adults snore occasionally but about 25% of adults snore regularly which can prevent both the snorer and their sleeping partner from getting a restful night’s sleep. Snoring is the rattling or hoarse sound that is produced when we breathe, and our airway is partially blocked. Narrowing of the nasal passages may be the source of the noise, or it could be the soft palate and tongue relaxing into the back of the throat allowing the tissues to touch and vibrate. Snoring may be embarrassing or annoying, but it may also be a sign of an underlying health issue. Trying a variety of natural solutions and lifestyle changes may help you to stop snoring or determine if you need to speak to your doctor or nurse practitioner.
Start by sleeping on your side and placing a body pillow behind you to prevent yourself from rolling onto your back once you fall asleep. Lying on your back makes the base of your tongue and soft palate collapse into your throat narrowing your airways. By having your head turned to the side these tissues stay in place and keep the airway open.
There are also two types of mouthguards available to help keep these tissues in place. One type molds to fit your teeth and slightly moves your lower jaw forward to keep the airway open. The other type are tongue-retaining devices that lightly grip or hold your tongue in place to keep it from falling into the back of your throat.
If snoring starts in your nose, keeping your nasal passages open to allow air to move through more slowly can help. When nasal passages are partially blocked due to congestion or narrowing of the tissues, we breathe heavier and faster producing a snoring sound. Nasal congestion can be improved by taking a hot shower before bed or by using a nasal saline irrigation device to rinse out the mucus and clear your nasal passages.
A variety of nasal strips are available and can help by pulling the skin on the outside of the nose outward to lift open the tissues in your airway. There are also small plastic inserts available that slide into both nostrils and push outward on the nasal tissues to keep the airways open.
Allergic reactions from allergens in your bedroom and in your pillow can also be a reason for snoring. If you feel fine during the day but get congested when you go to bed it could be from the dust on your ceiling fan, pet dander or dust mites accumulating in your pillow. Putting your pillow in the dryer every other week and replacing it every 6 months will help keep dust mites and allergens to a minimum, as will, unfortunately, keeping pets out of the room.
Certain lifestyle changes can be beneficial. Alcohol and sedating medications cause extra relaxation of the muscles in the back of your throat, increasing the chances of you snoring. This is why people who do not normally snore may snore after drinking alcohol. Cutting back on sedating medications and avoiding alcohol 4-5 hours before bedtime can help. Quitting smoking can also help reduce snoring as smoke and vape chemicals irritate our airways causing inflammation and mucous production.
Working long hours without getting enough sleep can have a similar effect to that of drinking alcohol. Being overtired when you go to bed causes you to fall into a deep sleep resulting in deep relaxation of the muscles in the throat as well.
And finally, weight loss may help some but not everyone as thin people snore too! If you have gained weight and started snoring or your snoring has gotten worse, weight loss may help. When you carry extra weight around your neck it squeezes the tissues around your throat making them more likely to collapse during sleep and trigger snoring.
If you are still snoring despite trying these suggestions, it is time to book an appointment with your prescriber. Sometimes snoring is caused by physical issues that can be resolved through minor surgeries or if your snoring is accompanied by other symptoms such as gasping or choking you could have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition where you stop breathing for seconds to minutes several times throughout the night and it should not be ignored as it can increase your risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart failure and stroke.
Erin Thompson (BSc, BScPharm) is a graduate of Dalhousie University and a community pharmacist practicing at Shoppers Drug Mart in Quispamsis N.B. Her opinions expressed in this newspaper are published for educational and informational purposes only, and are not intended as a diagnosis, treatment or as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Send your questions to AskYourNBPharmacist@gmail.com.
The Ask Your Pharmacist column appears in New Brunswick newspapers for educational and informational purposes only. These opinions are not intended as a diagnosis, treatment or as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have a question you’d like to see answered, you can send it to AskYourNBPharmacist@gmail.com.