Snoring is both a social stigma and a health risk that affects 45% of the adult population. It is often a sign of obstructed breathing passages and, if left untreated, can lead to serious medical complications such as heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.

What Causes Snoring?

Snoring is the result of an airflow obstruction in the airway passages, usually caused by tissues in the back of the throat vibrating together during sleep. This is often attributed to excessively bulky tissue and poor muscle tone in the tongue and throat, an abnormally large soft palate or uvula, or a stuffy or blocked nose that prevents air from flowing feely through the nasal airways.

Snoring can be embarrassing socially, and cause your bed partner to suffer from a lack of sleep and fatigue. Worse, it interferes with normal sleeping patterns and prevents you from receiving sufficient rest. It’s often an indication of obstructive sleep apnea, a condition characterized by repeated pauses in breathing that can lead to serious health problems.

Tips for Treating Snoring

Often, instituting lifestyle changes can make a difference in your snoring habits. People who are overweight are more prone to snoring, so if you’ve got extra pounds to use, consider changing your diet and taking up an exercise program. Alcohol causes relaxation of your throat muscles, so avoid it before bedtime. If you sleep on your back, try switching to your side. Elevating your head a few inches often helps, as well.

When these strategies don’t work, there are a variety of additional options to treat snoring. Oral appliances to reposition the jaw during sleep and nasal strips to widen the airway passages may be worth consideration. Surgical procedures to remove excess tissue and open the airways are sometimes recommended. If you are suffering from sleep apnea, CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) devices are the preferred method of treatment.