Lifestyle is key in snoring battleImagine the typical snorer. What do you see? Male. Lazy. Stout. Probably asleep in front of the television while watching the National Geographic Channel after chugging a beer or two ... or three.
Sure, it’s a stereotype, but research shows that it’s pretty close to the truth. Doctors say that the typical snorer is an overweight male with an unhealthy lifestyle that includes drinking.
Snoring is less common in premenopausal women. After menopause, women become more prone to snoring. Chances are that one out of five men snore at night, according to Dr. Yim Sang-bin, a ear, nose and throat specialist in Seoul.
Why? People snore when the muscles of their soft palate and uvula, the stuff hanging in the backs of their throats, relax and vibrate as air is inhaled and exhaled. The vibration ia what causes the snoring noise.
But it’s not the only reason. During sleep, some people’s airways become narrower and more prone to vibration. The squeezed passageways may be due large tonsils, or flabby tissues, or a weak chin or a tongue that relaxes too much during sleep and gets sucked back into the airway with every breath that is taken.
While snoring generally isn’t dangerous, it can cause problems.
Lack of sleep is one ― and not just for the person sleeping next to the snorer. Snorers sometimes suck their tongue completely against the back of their throat causing their breathing to stop. The sleeper wakes up, and the tongue returns to a normal position. This is called obstructive sleep apnea.
Some snorers are so loud that they wake themselves up, leading to sleep deprivation and fatigue.
Needless to say, snoring affects relationships. Snorers sometimes wake in the morning to find their spouse sleeping in another room because of the noise.
Even single snorers face ostracism and embarrassment if their work includes travel with co-workers.
There are also a rare cases of death due to snoring. The snorer’s airways become too narrow and breathing stops ― but the sleeper doesn’t wake up.
What should you do if you snore and you’re losing sleep? Ear, nose and throat doctors, sleep specialists and dentists can provide advice.
There are a few simple remedies for snoring problems. A healthy lifestyle tops the list.
When patients come to see Dr. Yim, he checks their weight and asks about general health, in addition to inspecting the breathing passages.
For any patients who are overweight or have unhealthy lifestyles, he recommends exercise. Only after a patient has followed through on a workout plan will he begin to discuss surgical options for the nose, throat, tongue, tonsils or jaw.
In uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, commonly known as UPPP, the tonsils can be taken out and the soft palate reshaped. This requires several visits that include hospital stays. UPPP is only recommended for severe cases and must be performed by a specialist.
Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty can be performed in one visit. Local anesthestics are used, so there is no pain during surgery. But for a couple of weeks after surgery, patients will feel some discomfort. Doctors recommend eating soft foods during recovery.
Surgery can be done on the jaw if the person has a weak chin. The jaw is cut and brought forward, opening the air passages behind the jaw.
Another option for those with a weak chin is to be fitted with an oral appliance. The appliance fits in the mouth and pulls the lower jaw forward, opening up the airways. This is a less invasive option, but some patients find sleeping with an oral appliance very uncomfortable.
Surgery is not the ultimate solution, Dr. Yim says, since it isn’t permanent. As a patient ages, the muscles in the throat area deteriorate, just like the other muscles of the body.
Maintaining correct sleeping posture and a healthy lifestyle are long-term solutions that will ultimately benefit snorers outside the bedroom.
by Joe Yong-hee