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6 Ways to Prevent Snoring

Sleep Soundly (and Soundless!)
  -- By Liza Barnes & Nicole Nichols, Health Educators
Snoring—that loud, hoarse breathing during sleep—is a nuisance, whether it affects you personally or the person you share a bed with. And that's a lot of people, since 37 million people are consistent snorers, according to the National Sleep Foundation. The sound originates in the very back of the mouth, where the soft tissues of many structures meet. When these tissues vibrate together, snoring occurs. This phenomenon is much more common in men than in women, and usually increases with age.

Generally, snoring is not a cause for concern, unless it interferes with the sleep of others. But in some cases, it can be a sign of a serious medical condition called sleep apnea. In sleep apnea, people actually stop breathing for about 10 seconds at a time throughout the night, causing dangerous dips in blood-oxygen levels. According to the National Institutes of Health, this disorder may contribute to high blood pressure and even stroke. Anyone who snores on a regular basis should be medically evaluated to rule out this condition. If sleep apnea is not involved in your snoring, then there are lots of techniques to try that may help reduce or even eliminate snoring.

Here are six simple suggestions that may help to reduce snoring:

1. Lose weight if you're overweight. Excess weight can contribute to a host of health problems, but it also narrows the airway, increasing the likelihood that those tissues will rub together.

2. Limit or avoid alcohol and other sedatives at bedtime. These substances relax the airway, leading to snoring. Limit yourself to less than one drink daily for women, or less than two drinks daily for men, and consume your last drink at least four hours before bedtime.

3. Avoid sleeping flat on your back. Back-sleepers are more prone to snoring since this position allows the flesh of your throat to relax and block the airway. If you are a habitual back-sleeper, try this method to retrain yourself: Stuff a tennis ball into a sock, and safety-pin the sock to the back of your pajamas. Each time you roll to your back during the night, you'll feel uncomfortable and turn back to your side.

4. Don't smoke. Besides contributing to other respiratory problems, smoking also leads to nasal and lung congestion, which can result in snoring. Take steps to quit today.

5. Avoid secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is just as harmful, and causes snoring in the same ways actual smoking does. Encourage your loved ones to quit, and avoid smoky restaurants and bars.

6. Improve your fitness level. When you have poor muscle tone, you're more likely to snore. Exercising tones and strengthens muscles all over the body, while also regulating your sleeping patterns. Aim for at least three cardio sessions and two strength training sessions each week.

In most cases, snoring isn't caused by one single factor, but a combination of many. If these suggestions don’t work, see you doctor for more ideas. There are lots of products and procedures designed to reduce snoring, from removable plastic nasal dilators to nasal surgery. If you or your loved ones are suffering from snoring, a good night’s sleep may be just a doctor’s visit away.