Thursday, March 5, 2009

Much Ado About Snoring

Segments of today’s Morning Edition on NPR focused on snoring in adults and children.

Snoring is a common problem. But what can be done about it?

First, you need to be aware that
snoring is a common sign of obstructive sleep apnea. Most often this kind of snoring is loud and frequent. It tends to be followed by silent pauses in breathing. These pauses may end with a loud choking or snorting sound.

Sleep apnea is a serious health problem that requires medical attention.
CPAP and oral appliances are the two most common treatments. Another option is surgery, which is a common solution for children with sleep apnea.

But what about a milder case of snoring that is unrelated to sleep apnea? Are there any solutions?

Well there are hundreds, if not thousands, of products that are marketed to “cure” snoring. This is true of most other health problems as well. The
FTC reports that consumers may spend billions of dollars on “unproven, fraudulently marketed, often useless health-related products, devices and treatments.”

So be careful. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

One option that can work is an
oral appliance. It keeps the airway open when you wear it as you sleep. It should be fit by a specialist in dental sleep medicine.

Wearing a nasal strip may have a mild effect on snoring. Using a lubricant nasal spray also may help.

A steroid nasal spray may help for snoring related to nasal congestion. Regular nasal decongestants may not work as well. They may have a “rebound” effect that could worsen nasal breathing later in the night.

There are two other treatment options for snoring that involve behavioral changes.

One is weight loss, if your snoring is related to being
overweight or obese. Of course, this is easier said than done. Weight loss also takes time, so it certainly isn’t a quick fix.

Another option is “positional therapy.” Basically, this means that you sleep on your side instead of on your back. Certain types of pillows can help you do this. Or you can try the old home remedy of sewing a tennis ball in the back of your pajamas.

Just keep in mind that you need to find out if your snoring is a sign of sleep apnea. Contact an
AASM-accredited sleep center near you for help.

Read the AASM’s summary of common cures for snoring. Or read the full report from the journal Sleep.

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