Why do we snore?
You may have found that if you have a cold with a blocked nose you snore for a couple of nights before the congestion eases. This is because your nasal passage is not clear, and the constriction of the upper respiratory tract can result in vibration and the characteristic sound of snoring.
For some people, the symptoms of snoring occur whether they have a blocked nose or not, and this is often because the back of the throat and tongue relax, blocking the upper respiratory tract causing snoring.
Common causes of snoring
Some people are more susceptible to snoring than others, and although it can sometimes be difficult to establish an exact reason, there are some consistent trends.
Weight – although many slim people do snore, it is more common among overweight or obese people, particularly those who have extra fat around their neck. This is because it restricts the airway, making it more likely to collapse when you are asleep. If you have noticed that your symptoms of snoring have begun after putting on weight, then this is a good indication of the cause, and you may just find that your solution lies with losing those extra pounds again.
Sleep position – snoring is more common amongst those who sleep on their back, as this position allows the tongue to flop to the back of the mouth and the soft palate to relax, obstructing the throat. If you sleep on your back, trying adapting your sleep position to sleeping on your side, as this allows for a more open passage for the air. It may feel uncomfortable to sleep on your side to begin with, but the human body is amazingly adaptable, and if this new position cuts out snoring it is worth persevering, as it shouldn’t take long before it becomes comfortable for you.
Pillow – the type of pillow you use can also have a significant impact on your snoring symptoms, with soft unsupportive pillows worsening the condition. Also pillows that are too high or not high enough can cause your neck to bend at awkward angles increasing risk of snoring. Instead your pillow should be firm and supportive, keeping your head and neck in line with your body. Some snorers have found that converting to a hard foam pillow has cured their problem.
Recent research has been investigating the effectiveness of snoring exercise in reducing symptoms. It may seem a bit of a strange concept, but snoring exercises may just be the answer you have been looking for to help with your snoring.
Your tongue and soft palate are both muscles which can be worked and exercised, and as with any other muscle, exercising them makes them stronger. They are exercises which are not difficult to perform, but need to be practised regularly for full benefits.
Stick your tongue out – it’s something we have probably all been reprimanded for doing as a child (or perhaps not so young) but the good news for snorers is that they are finally being allowed stick their tongue out, and give it a good waggle too! Stick your tongue out as far as you can and without allowing it to curl, move it from side to side to try to reach the corners of your mouth, then lift it up and down to try to touch your lips. Do this for ten to fifteen seconds, or for as long as you can before your tongue gets sore.
Slide your tongue along the roof of your mouth – Place the tip of your tongue behind your top teeth and run it along the roof of your mouth towards your throat along the ridge that separates the two sides of your hard palate. Do this twenty times, before giving your tongue a good rest.
Suck your thumb (but without your thumb) – the sucking action you make when sucking your thumb or a lollipop is what you are trying to achieve in this exercise. Lay your tongue completely along the roof of your mouth a suck upwards, holding for a few seconds, then relaxing, but not letting your tongue leave the roof of your mouth. Again, twenty times is the magic number, before relaxing your tongue completely.
Other than sticking your tongue out, which is best done in private these exercises are discrete and can easily be performed while at work or driving, for example. Provided that you are not finding your tongue or palate becoming painful, these exercises can be performed up to three times daily. It may take a few weeks to see the results, but with regular perseverance you and your partner may soon be enjoying snore-free sleeps.