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Expert Q&A

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How can someone stop or reduce snoring?

Asked by Barbara Friend, Missouri

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Is there anything a person can do to stop snoring or possibly reduce the amount of snoring at night? It's so loud.

Expert Bio Picture

Living Well Expert Dr. Jennifer Shu Pediatrician,
Children's Medical Group

Expert Answer:

For mild, occasional snoring, treatment may be as simple as sleeping on one's side, adding extra pillows, using an adhesive strip over the nose, or every now and then trying oral or nasal decongestants or antihistamines as recommended by your physician.

Sometimes a blockage along the airway can cause snoring. A blockage can be caused by enlarged tonsils, adenoids or the soft tissues around the neck, for example. Losing weight may help, as may having the tonsils or adenoids removed if the obstruction is severe enough to warrant surgery. Blockages in the nose, such as having a deviated nasal septum, may also improve with surgery.

It may also be helpful to avoid certain drugs such as sleeping pills or other sedatives and alcohol, which can all make the area around the throat relaxed and somewhat floppy while sleeping.

Perhaps the most important thing to be aware of when it comes to snoring is a condition called obstructive sleep apnea, where loud snoring is paired with gasps for air or pauses in breathing for more than about 15 seconds. As the body notices that it needs oxygen, it tries to take in a large amount of air, causing a gasping, snoring or snorting sound.

Sleep apnea may cause a person to be very drowsy in the daytime since nighttime sleep is interrupted frequently. It affects 18 million Americans and tends to be more common in males, people who are overweight and adults over age 40, although it can occur at all ages, including in children. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, sleep apnea can also put a person at risk for medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. However, many people do not even realize they have sleep apnea, so it's important to keep the possibility in mind.

Primary care physicians can evaluate a person's situation for possible sleep apnea and recommend testing at a special sleep study center if needed. The treatment for sleep apnea may include losing weight if a person is overweight and avoiding medications or other substances that cause drowsiness. Some people benefit from a special mouthpiece or a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine that keeps the airway open and prevents long pauses in breathing during sleep. In some instances, surgery may be needed to widen the breathing passages.

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