Sleep is absolutely one of the important essentials for good health. You really can't be optimally healthy unless you are sleeping well, and snoring is a very common sleep problem that limits either your or someone you sleep with, ability to sleep well.
An estimated 45 percent of adults snore occasionally, and about 25 percent are habitual snorers, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology.
It's more common in men, as well as people who are overweight, and usually gets worse as you get older.
Good Sleep is Essential For Optimal Health
Sleep is in fact such a crucial aspect of health that it can have an adverse impact on some very serious diseases such as:
- Parkinson's disease (PD)
- Alzheimer's disease (AD)
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Gastrointestinal tract disorders
- Kidney disease
- Behavioral problems in children
What Causes Snoring, and How is it Usually Treated?
Snoring is caused by reduced airways, stemming from either your throat or nasal passageway, and it's the vibrations as the air struggles to get through your soft palate, uvula, tongue, tonsils and/or muscles in the back of your throat that causes the snore.
There are several conventional treatments for snoring and sleep apnea (where you temporarily stop breathing while sleeping), including antidepressant drugs and surgery. None of them come without potentially serious risks to your health.
Nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the most common treatment for sleep apnea. You wear a mask over your nose during sleep and pressure from an air blower forces air through your nasal passages. The air pressure is constant and continuous, and adjusted so that it is just enough to prevent your throat from collapsing during sleep. Nasal CPAP prevents airway closure while in use, however, apnea episodes return when CPAP is stopped or if used improperly, so it's not a permanent fix.
Following a healthy diet, based on your nutritional type, and maintaining a good cardiovascular exercise program are far more effective at resolving sleep apnea.
Nine Natural Options to Stop Snoring and Improve Your Sleep
Fortunately, there are many natural, non-invasive techniques at your disposal before you turn to more radical medical intervention.
Here are nine of my favorite strategies.
1. Sleep on your side, not your back -- The reason why sleeping on your side instead of your back is recommended is because snoring is often due to lax muscles in your throat and tongue. When you lie on your back your throat and tongue muscles ease backward in your throat, causing a vibration as you struggle to breathe. An old folk remedy recommends sewing a tennis ball on the back of your pajamas to help keep you off your back while you sleep.
2. Raise the head of your bed – This simple tip can also help diminish the collapsing of your airways. Simply raise the head of your bed about four inches, by placing blocks or wedges under your mattress.
3. Normalize your weight -- Carrying extra weight around your neck can also cause your throat to narrow when you lay down, hence the higher incidence of snoring if you're overweight. Normalizing your body weight could make a big difference. Reducing grains and sugars as I discuss in my nutritional guidelines is a great way to accomplish that.
4. Do throat and tongue exercises -- If they are stronger they are less likely to slip backward.
Here's an example of one such exercise: Begin by simply putting your upper and lower molars together, lightly. Next, open your mouth, focusing on pressing your molars as wide apart as you can, without over stretching. Repeat this ten to twenty times. After about 5 to 10 times you should feel your jaw muscles strengthening, and the back of your mouth opening up.
5. Use a steam bowl – Putting your head over a steam bowl and covering it with a towel, just before going to bed, can also work wonders to clear out, and reduce any swelling in your nasal airway that might be a contributing factor. Also keep your sleeping environment as clean and dust free as possible.
6. Use nasal strips – If your problem stems from obstruction in your nasal passageway, using nasal air strips can help increase airflow.
7. Avoid alcohol—Alcohol, and other muscle relaxing or sleep aid drugs will relax your tongue and throat muscles even more, making your snoring worse.
8. Avoid milk – Yes, drinking milk, especially at night, can also make snoring worse as it leaves a layer of mucus in your mouth and throat, so stick to plain water.
9. Avoid big meals late in the evening -- Don't eat a big meal right before bed time. If your stomach is full it can push up against your diaphragm, further limiting your ability to breathe easy.
If you have problems sleeping – whether its trouble falling asleep, or staying asleep through the night, for any reason -- I suggest reviewing my Guide to a Good Night's Sleep for 33 of my best recommendations. Additionally, try to get to sleep by 9PM in the winter as that helps optimize your adrenal function. In the summer staying up until 10PM or even 11PM is tolerated much better.