Snoring? The 10-cent and 50-cent cure
| Murray Grossan, MD.
About the author: Dr. Grossan is an otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon with the Tower Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and the founder of the Web based Grossan Sinus & Health Institute (http://www.grossaninstitute.com). He is author of Free Yourself from Sinus and Allergy Problems Permanently.
Many people snore. The problem is that snoring that disturbs the partner, can develop into snoring that severely affects one’s health, such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea. (OSA) Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which the sleeper doesn’t get enough air. This means that for periods of time the nose or throat is blocked and the percentage of oxygen that gets to the brain is reduced. The partner may notice that for periods of time her husband has stopped breathing!
Why does obstructive sleep apnea occur? The word apnea means no air. A stands for not, and pnea stands for air. The causes vary. Sometimes the soft palate and uvula are enlarged and very heavy. When he sleeps on his back, the heavy soft palate falls back and blocks the airway.
A frequent cause originates from the nose; there may be blockage due to infection, growths in the nose called nasal polyps, allergy, or adenoid tissue, (located above the throat, behind the nose) that enlarges to block breathing. A common cause of snoring is enlarged tonsils. In kids, the tonsils and adenoids may be so large that the kid barely breathes in sleep, causing him to snore loudly, be tired and grumpy, and have bad breath. Obstructive sleep apnea is an advanced form of snoring that can develop from simple snoring.
Alice experienced snoring at age twenty-five that annoyed her roommate. It was a symptom of a sinus condition. She ignored the condition and took pills when it bothered her. However, because she didn’t get good sleep, she ate excessively to overcome her next day fatigue and gained weight.
As her weight increased, her throat tissues became heavier, as did the fat in her neck. Because of her eating before bed, she developed acid reflux. This swelled her throat tissues and made her snoring worse. Eventually she developed obstructive sleep apnea and had to use a breathing machine to overcome her airway blockage at night.
Note the vicious cycle: because Alice was fatigued the next day, she ate excessively for energy. Because she ate excessively, the throat tissues grew heavy and blocked her breathing, so she was more fatigued and ate more, and the snoring became worse.
Fortunately, there are simple remedies: the ten-cent and the fifty-cent cure. For those whose snoring is caused by a drooping nose, which closes a valve of the nasal airway, if you raise the tip, that valve opens. Cut a three-inch piece of ½-inch medical grade tape, start under the nasal tip, elevate the tip, and then secure the tape on the bridge of the nose up to between the eyes. With the airway valve open, there is less or no snoring.
If you lie on your back, the tissues of the throat fall back and block the airway. If you sleep on your side, the tissues fall forward, and the air passages are opened. To sleep through the night on your side, secure a used tennis ball to the back of a T-shirt; when you sleep on your back, the ball will nudge you gently and you will turn onto your side, and stop snoring. This is the fifty-cent cure. There are some very expensive gadgets that signal you to turn to your side when you snore from lying on your back. Actually, I prefer the ball because it doesn’t disturb your sleep pattern, as some of the electronic ones do.
Nasal blockage often is caused by bacteria in the sinuses. Normally the nose contains millions of tiny hairs called cilia. In health, these cilia move in synchrony to move bacteria out of the nose, to the back of the throat, where they are swallowed. When the cilia fail, bacteria sit there and multiply, and this leads to chronic nasal congestion and blockage due to infection. To restore the good cilia movement, patients use pulse rate saline nasal/sinus irrigation. The pulse rate of the irrigator is designed to match the normal rate of cilia pulse movement; that frequency is ideal to restore normal cilia function and clear sinusitis and postnasal drip.
Swollen fatty throat tissue is corrected by using a throat attachment to the pulse irrigator, the Hydro Pulse™. It is designed to remove bacteria from the “holes” in the tonsils and to massage throat/tonsil tissue. By restoring good nasal airway and reducing puffy throat tissue, many people’s snoring is relieved. Making the throat muscles stronger keeps the tissue from blocking the airway. By repeating these throat exercises, the muscles become firm and strong, just as weight lifting does for flabby arms.
- Hold the tongue up against the hard palate. Say the vowel sounds- a, e, i, o, u. Place the tongue in front of the roof of the mouth. Then slide it all the way to the back of the roof of the mouth, repeat the vowels in various positions for three minutes.
- Press the tongue hard against the hard palate. Press frequently.
- Press the tip of the tongue into the spot just behind the upper incisor teeth while pushing the back of the tongue into the floor of the mouth. Now do this pushing on the lower incisors.
- Swallow keeping the tongue on the roof of the mouth.
Do these three minutes each. It takes time to build and strengthen muscles by exercise and the throat is no exception. As the snoring problem gets worse, symptoms of acid reflux appear. Here too, you have a vicious circle. The more acid from the stomach that irritates the throat, the more snoring from swollen tissue occurs. Gasping for air in sleep because of nasal blockage is a factor because the gasping tends to push the stomach upwards.
To prevent the acid reflux problem, keep the head of the bed elevated. Don’t eat for three hours before bedtime; avoid excess spices. Avoid alcohol before bedtime.
To aid sleep, the bedroom should be dark. You should go to bed at a regular time, with a set routine that you repeat each night, so as to set your sleep clock. Losing weight is a definite way to cure snoring, but very hard to do when snoring is present, for the reasons discussed here.
Why is good sleep without snoring important? It is estimated that at least thirty percent of traffic and industrial accidents are related to poor sleep; she fell asleep while driving and drove over the cliff.
On the other hand, opening the nasal valve, using a ball to nudge you to sleep on your side, using pulsatile irrigation for the nose and throat, and doing the throat exercises are easy to do; and when started early, can be effective to assure a good night’s sleep for you and your partner.