Typically, as you sleep, air passes through the nose and past the back of the throat without any trouble. But as muscles relax during sleep, the upper airway can become partially blocked, causing the soft tissue in the throat to vibrate and creating the cumbersome noise that is snoring. Loud and frequent snoring is a common warning sign for obstructive sleep apnea, which is a serious sleep illness. Over time, sleep apnea can increase the risk of high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, depression, diabetes, heart disease and more.
'Your mind, body and overall health suffer from poor quality sleep, so it's important to determine the cause of your snoring and take action,' says Dr. B. Gail Demko, a dentist who has practiced dental sleep medicine for more than 20 years and is president of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine - the only non-profit national professional society dedicated exclusively to the practice of dental sleep medicine.
The American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine recommends these surprising remedies to help you stop snoring and sleep more soundly:
1. Change position - When you lie on your back, you're more prone to snore. By sleeping on your side or raising the head of your bed 4 to 8 inches, you can help keep your airway open and prevent snoring. A trick to keep from rolling onto your back is to surround yourself with pillows or wear a rolled up hand towel in a fanny pack.
2. Avoid alcohol - When it comes to snoring, a nightcap is a misnomer. Alcohol increases muscle relaxation, and relaxed throat muscles can make snoring worse. Come home from happy hour at least three to four hours before bedtime to minimize your tendency to snore.
3. Work it out - Throat exercises can reduce snoring and the severity of sleep apnea by toning muscles around the airway, which helps prevent it from collapsing during sleep. There are several exercises you can do that involve swallowing, chewing and contracting the back of the throat. Strengthen your muscles by setting aside time each day for a throat workout.
4. Kick a bad habit - Cigarette smoking irritates and inflames your upper airway, increasing the likelihood that you'll snore and raising your risk of developing sleep apnea. Learn about the available options, such as support groups and nicotine replacement therapy, to help you quit smoking and put sleep problems to bed.
5. Visit a dentist - Did you know there are thousands of dentists trained to help treat and manage your snoring and sleep apnea? Dentists experienced in dental sleep medicine can provide an effective, custom-fitted oral appliance that you wear during sleep to maintain an open, unobstructed airway. Oral appliance therapy is a comfortable alternative to the traditionally-prescribed CPAP machine and mask, and many patients prefer it as a solution for living with sleep apnea. If you're losing shuteye to snoring or sleep apnea, visit www.LocalSleepDentist.com to find a dentist near you who offers oral appliance therapy.
'AADSM recommends oral appliance therapy for people with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea or those who can't comply with CPAP,' says Demko. 'Once you've been diagnosed with primary snoring or sleep apnea by a board-certified sleep physician, a trip to a dentist for a custom-fitted oral appliance can be your key to better sleep and better health.'