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Posted on: January 30, 2015 at 11:57 pm
Last updated: December 5, 2018 at 1:26 pm

It’s estimated that 40% of adult men and 24% of adult women snore [1].

That seems like a lot of people!

People who snore and people who deal with snorers often brush the issue off and don’t realize it could be the result of another, more serious health condition.

Most people will snore at some point in their lives, but if you snore regularly, you could be experiencing underlying health issues without realizing it.

While not everyone who snores will have underlying health issues, it’s essential to get your snoring evaluated if you’re experiencing some of the symptoms mentioned in this article along with regular snoring.

What are some of these symptoms, and what could your snoring mean, exactly? Here’s why you might not want to avoid your regular snoring issue.

What Causes Snoring?

There are several different things that could be causing your snoring. Some of these include:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea. There are three different types of sleep apnea, with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) being the most common. In a person who has obstructive sleep apnea, the airway will actually collapse during sleep, effectively stopping breathing. The body will then force itself awake to begin breathing again [2].

People who have OSA are usually not aware of these instances of waking up of gasping for air during the night, even though they may happen hundreds of times! However, a sleeping partner is usually the one to notice that these episodes happen.

It’s important to remember that while not everyone who snores will have OSA, getting this health condition evaluated in the event that you do have it could be vital to remedying your symptoms, as we’ll soon see.

Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB)

How are OSA and SDB different?

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OSA is actually a type of SDB, although the definition of apnea is limited to a pause in breathing that lasts ten seconds or more. Any other type of partially obstructed breathing that doesn’t include this long pause may only qualify as SDB and not carry the same severe consequences as sleep apnea.

In other words, you may have some type of upper airway obstruction, but not to the degree that obstructive sleep apnea is present. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t seek help for your symptoms, however.

The other two types of sleep apnea are also categorized as sleep breathing disorders. Central sleep apnea, which occurs when the brain doesn’t properly instruct the muscles responsible for breathing, is a type of communication error and is much less common than OSA. There’s also mixed sleep apnea, when both obstructive and central sleep apnea are present, which usually requires more advanced treatment options [3].

Obesity

It’s estimated that 58% of moderate to severe OSA is the result of obesity [4].

Excess tissue around the throat could be causing your airway to collapse or be partially obstructed during sleep. Although obesity could be the cause of your snoring (and potentially your sleep apnea), weight gain is also a symptom of sleep apnea.

When the body isn’t able to attain proper rest, hormones that help to regulate your appetite can get out of balance, therefore leading you to feel hungrier and consume excess calories during your waking hours.

Facial Structure

You may have a unique facial structure—including your nasal passages—that just makes snoring more likely. This may not mean that you have OSA, just that you’re more likely to snore than someone who has differently shaped passageways [5].

Having a narrow airway, which could be the result of genetics, can also make an individual more prone to snoring [6].

However, if your snoring is accompanied by fatigue, mood swings, or disrupted sleep, it could be time to seek an evaluation from a sleep specialist to see if your snoring could actually be the result of another issue such as OSA.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse such as abusing alcohol or narcotic medication can cause the muscles in the upper airway to relax too much, limiting airflow and causing the vibration that we know as snoring.

Even not abusing substances such as these and merely using them can lead to snoring. For example, muscle relaxants and sedatives can relax the tissue in the throat too much, leading to partial or complete collapse of the airway. Alcohol has the same effect.

Smoking also acts as an upper respiratory irritant and can inflame the airway and lead to swelling that partially obstructs it.

An easy way to stop snoring—if your snoring is caused by these substances—is not take sedatives, drink alcohol, or smoke, especially before bed.

Symptoms and Complications of Snoring

While snoring in and of itself doesn’t typically constitute an issue, it can be a symptom of a much larger issue in the body.

OSA is certainly a cause for concern. People who have OSA are more likely to have high blood pressure, depression, stroke, mood swings, heart disease, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, and other health problems.

Since OSA prevents the body from getting the oxygen it needs due to frequent interruption of breathing, low oxygen levels in the blood combined with the fact that your sleep is so disrupted cause chronic health concerns as long as OSA is present [7].

People who suffer from OSA may also experience daytime fatigue, making it difficult to concentrate and making accidents more likely.

OSA is a debilitating health condition that can wreak havoc on your life. So what can you do about it?

6 Natural Ways to Stop Snoring

Before we get into natural remedies for snoring, I would strongly advocate for a diagnosis first, especially if you’re seeing other symptoms we’ve discussed in conjunction with your snoring. In the event that OSA is present, you could be risking your life by ignoring your symptoms.

Getting a diagnosis is as simple as having your doctor or dentist refer you to a sleep specialist to see if you actually have sleep apnea or if your snoring is being caused by something else.

At that point, you may or may not choose to pursue natural remedies in addition to treatment from your doctor or dentist. While many lifestyle changes can help stop sleep apnea and snoring, often, people need the help of an oral appliance—a custom device that fits similarly to a retainer—to keep their airway open so they can begin alleviating their symptoms and seeing relief.

Then, they can begin to work on the following to help permanently reverse their OSA or snoring with the following options!

  1. Weight Loss

Since many cases of OSA and upper respiratory issues during sleep are suspected to be related to obesity, losing weight could actually help you to stop snoring.

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If you’re overweight or obese, it’s never too late to put a plan into place to start losing weight. Here are some herbs that might be able to help you get started on your journey!

  1. Side Sleeping

For some people, sleeping on their side instead of on their back can help stop snoring. For people whose tongue partially blocks their airway, this might be a simple solution. For others, this trick might not work.

The supine sleeping position—lying on your back—is acknowledged as the worst position for people who suffer from OSA. While side sleeping might help the airway to remain open, research is lacking to prove this change of position works, but it could be worth a try [8].

Remember to get diagnosed first before trying this—it may not help your symptoms!

  1. Nasal Strips

Nasal strips—which act as a kind of stint to help open your nostrils to breathe better—may be able to help some people who snore, but there’s no evidence that they help people who have OSA to have better airflow [9].

If you don’t have OSA, nasal strips may be worth a try to see if they help your snoring!

  1. Proper “Sleep Hygiene”

What exactly is sleep hygiene? [10]

Sleep hygiene refers to practices you can do to ensure you rest easy tonight, such as reducing or eliminating any caffeine after lunch (yes, this includes chocolate and coffee), not drinking alcohol, and exercising. It’s also important to sleep in a dark room that’s properly ventilated, quiet, and the right sleeping temperature.

Although doing all these things won’t necessarily help your sleep apnea (or your snoring), they can help you recover from sleep apnea once you have a diagnosis and are receiving treatment to restore a healthy sleep routine.

  1. Sleeping with Your Head in an Elevated Position

Some people say that sleeping in an elevated position can help to stop your snoring. In the event that you have a bed that’s head is able to be elevated, this is great. If not, you may have to resort to a tower of pillows to see if sleeping in this new position will help. Some people recommend a wedge pillow for better comfort!

  1. Essential Oils

Some people have seen results using certain essential oils to help curb snoring, although research for this is lacking.

Using thyme essential oil on your feet at night may help reduce snoring, but again, will not halt the root of your snoring problem [11].

Eucalyptus essential oil may aid the respiratory system by making it easier to breathe, breaking up mucus, and helping to relive symptoms of asthma (peppermint and clove may also have similar effects) [12].

Lavender essential oil used in a diffuser or bath can help relax you at night while lemon essential oil may boost your mood. Combined these with pine for stress relief and you might have just improved your sleep hygiene!

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Conclusion: Don’t Ignore the Snore

As tempted as you might be to ignore your snoring, it’s essential not to, especially if you have additional symptoms that could be majorly affecting your life.

If snoring is impacting your health and wellness, it’s time to get evaluated. Ask your doctor or dentist about your symptoms and ask them for a referral to a sleep specialist. If your snoring is being caused by an underlying health issue, getting the root problem resolved can help you feel better, lose weight, and get a good night’s sleep again!

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Jenn Ryan
Health Expert
Jenn Ryan is a freelance writer and editor who's passionate about natural health, fitness, gluten-free, and animals. She loves running, reading, and playing with her four rescued rabbits.

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