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Over 40 million Americans snore. 70% of them are men and the sound levels can reach 80 decibels or more up there with a jackhammer! Here are some facts for you to evaluate your (or your spouse's) problem.

The Problem

Snoring is produced in the upper respiratory tract during REM sleep (when dreaming occurs). It originates in the soft tissues of the throat including the soft palate, tongue, uvula, and tonsils. Relaxation of the muscles and restriction of the airway cause the soft palate to vibrate. The problem can be made worse by lying on your back, weight gain, increased bulk of the throat tissues, drugs or alcohol which relax the muscle tone, fatigue, and smoking. Also, nasal blockage or obstruction due to infection, allergy, irritants, drugs and medicines, or anatomic deformities can add to the problem.

The results of snoring can be chronic tiredness and even insomnia. The brain gets less oxygen during snoring and the body gets less rest due to the waking during REM sleep. Furthermore, snoring may be an indication of sleep apnea, which may lead to other medical complications. This can be diagnosed at a sleep study center and treated appropriately.

Some Solutions

You can try many simple remedies at home before seeking professional care if your sleep apnea is not serious. These include:

  • Discontinue alcohol in the evening.
  • Sew a tennis ball in a T shirt back pocket to keep off your back during sleep.
  • Elevate the head of your bed with a brick under the legs.
  • Lose weight.
  • Change medications which cause muscle relaxation.
  • Use medication or devices to open the nasal passages.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Get more rest and exercise.

What else?

If the above solutions don't help or if your apnea is severe, you need to see a physician to evaluate the condition. The doctor will look for physical reasons for the snoring in the nose and throat. A history will be taken to find any problem there. Then, usually after a sleep study, some solutions can be proposed which may include surgery to open the airway at the back of the throat, or a device to force air in when you breathe.

Your dentist can also help with an orthodontic device which opens the airway and solves the snoring problem for up to 80% of those who use it. This can be a short term prelude to surgical correction, or a device used when you are most prone to snoring.

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