About one-quarter of all pregnant women will snore during their third trimester of pregnancy even if they haven’t snored before, according to reports.
And while it’s almost unheard of not to have any sleep issues as one’s delivery date comes closer, snoring is more than just uncomfortable. As a woman’s blood volume increases during pregnancy, so does her need for more oxygen, something snoring can interrupt.
Proper sleep positioning during pregnancy is for more than back, leg and neck comfort. It’s vital that you reduce the possibility of snoring as much as possible during this time. Here’s what you need to know.
Don’t sleep on your back, most experts advise. In fact, this is the common wisdom for any snorer, pregnant or not, male or female, and at any age.
Sleeping on your back can align your neck unnaturally, keep your shoulders somewhat hunched upward, and can make weight on your front push down on your lungs and throat. When your muscles relax during sleep, this effect will be even more pronounced, and restriction can occur.
Believe it or not, it’s hard to harm your baby and your pregnancy by putting pressure on your stomach; your little one is well protected by layers of fluid, muscle, the bones of the pelvis, and a fatty layer. But like sleeping your back, sleeping on your stomach can misalign your neck and put pressure in odd places.
You’ll likely get to the point where you can’t comfortably sleep on your tummy anyway, but get started early on revamping your sleep habits so you’re not forced to adjust during the last weeks of pregnancy.
As you’ve probably guessed at this point, side sleeping is the position commonly recommended by obstetricians and sleep specialists. Side sleeping is a great position for snoring in general, but is also ideal for anyone carrying extra weight around the middle which can push up into the chest.
Be careful of your alignment. Pregnancy pulls on your spine and hips in new ways and jarring or tendinitis can occur. Make sure you have a good, supportive pillow that keeps your neck, shoulders and head aligned. This positioning will allow the most unrestricted airflow during sleep. You may also wish to purchase a pregnancy pillow or any long, rectangular or oval, supportive pillow to put one leg over during rest so your thighs are slightly spread, as your pelvis will broaden just slightly due to relaxed ligaments.
Snoring can happen during pregnancy no matter how carefully you position yourself. So if you’re still experiencing problems with snoring:
Any responsible doctor will suggest a sleep study if you’ve complained of snoring. That’s because she will want to rule out obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) or other issues, such as over-relaxed muscles, frequent partial wakings or other issues that may be going on.
Many people put off sleep studies, though. It’s not hard to see why: sleep studies just don’t look like all that much fun. How DOES one fall asleep in a strange bed with wires everywhere? And how will any of this fit into a busy work week (or perhaps worse, a weekend you wanted to spend having fun and relaxing)?
Actually, a sleep study can be invaluable and may hold clues to get, and keep, you healthier. Here’s what to expect.
You should be able to get a referral for a sleep specialist through, or even have your sleep study directly ordered by, your primary care provider, so call there first. Your doctor may want to see you in her office before writing the order, or she may be able to mail the paperwork to you if you have complained of sleep issues/snoring in the past or if she can get enough information over the phone.
“I don’t have a free day for a sleep study.” Yes you do. You sleep every night, actually, if you’re like most people. “No doctor or clinic ever has a weekend available.” Are you sure? Have you asked? Don’t assume a sleep study just won’t work out with your schedule. Doctors realize you have a life and that a sleep study can be an inconvenience. You may be surprised to find a weekend or no-work (for you) night available. Don’t put off this important step.
It’s true that you may have trouble falling asleep during the study. You are in a new place, you have wires attached (more on this below – we promise it won’t be as bad as you think) and you realize people are watching you. Remember that the professionals administering the test and monitoring you during sleep have done this many times before. They want you to be as comfortable as possible.
This is the part most people dread, but actually, you may be surprised at how easily this goes. Yes, you will need electrodes taped to various parts of your body, including your head, arms and trunk. This is in order to monitor your vital systems and to have a peek at what’s going on in your brain during sleep. But electrodes don’t hurt and most people forget they’re there after a while (yes, really).
A small amount of conductive paste will be smeared onto each electrode. The electrode will then be placed, and a piece of surgical tape will hold everything securely. This should not be uncomfortable at all, and you won’t feel any electricity from the electrodes.
The wires will connect to machines that monitor you. Both your brain and heart will be monitored. So will your oxygen levels, blood pressure and other bodily processes.
You will probably also have a monitor attached to your finger. Again, this should be painless.
This is one of the things patients worry about most. What if you just can’t fall asleep? Interestingly, even people who struggle with insomnia tend to fall asleep at some point during the sleep study. Don’t worry about this factor. Relax and see what happens. You will probably sleep more than you think, and even some sleep should reveal results your doctor can work with later.
The professionals observing you during the study will not be able to give you any results. Your doctor should call you with results and any recommendations. How long this will take depends upon your doctor’s own policies and how quickly she can get to reviewing your results.
Don’t put off your sleep study. It’s painless, it’s just one night and it could deliver information that’s invaluable to helping your snoring or other sleep issue.
Think you can’t possibly be a snorer, or if you do snore, that you’re not at risk for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)? You may be right – but on the other hand, you could be missing information critical to your sleep and your health. What you don’t know can hurt you. Here are 7 common snoring and sleep apnea myths, and what you can do about each.
Anyone who had a snoring grandmother (or whose toddler daughter snores) knows this is pure mythology, but you’d be surprised how many people secretly believe it anyway. It’s true that more men than women snore overall, but women are by no means immune to snoring, and a growing number of women are experiencing OSA.
YOUR FIX: Ask your mate for an honest answer as to whether you snore, or hook yourself up with a snoring app.
The chance of snoring does increase with age, but snoring is not exclusive to the elderly. Partially due to more children being overweight (but not exclusively for this reason – other factors influence whether a person snores), more children are being diagnosed with snoring, and surprisingly, even OSA.
YOUR FIX: If your child snores more than very lightly, and/or if s/he wakes up or partially awakens gasping or choking, see a doctor and ask for a sleep study. Ditto if you or a loved one snores even if you’re 35, 30, or 20. ANYONE at ANY age can have a snoring issue. Don’t put off this critical step.
We touched on this in Myth #2 above, but it’s worth saying again: being overweight absolutely has an impact on the chances of snoring, but one does not have to be overweight in order to snore. Snoring can have a number of causes, from the temporary (such as a head cold) to the more serious (including issues like polyps or chronic allergies). This means slender people most definitely can snore.
YOUR FIX: If you suspect snoring, see your doctor, even if you are a normal weight and feel healthy otherwise.
Frequently this is the case, but not all people who snore feel sleepy during the day. To make this even blurrier an issue, many people in today’s society feel chronically tired due to excessive stress or disordered sleeping in general, so it’s easy to put daytime drowsiness down to these issues.
YOUR FIX: If you suspect snoring, ask your mate to keep track of how often s/he is awakened by your snoring or better yet, install a sleep app or other device to track whether you’re having snoring episodes.
Any type of snoring can be harmful, as snoring generally means an attempt at more oxygen intake. This means oxygen intake has already been restricted.
YOUR FIX: Doctors are generally quite familiar with allergies and snoring, as well as allergies and sleep issues in general. Ask your doctor for a non habit-forming nighttime solution to your snoring.
With obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the airway is narrowed or completely cut off for brief periods during the night. This may occur several to dozens of times each sleep period. As the body reflexively seeks replacement oxygen, the sufferer will usually wake up gasping or choking. However, some OSA sufferers choke or gasp without fully awakening. In the morning, they’re not aware they ever had the epsiode(s).
YOUR FIX: Ask your doctor for a sleep study if you suspect snoring but ESPECIALLY if you suspect OSA, which can be dangerous over time.
Not everyone does snore. Of people who snore, a percentage do so very lightly without ever experiencing a significant loss of oxygen. Snoring is not a joke. It can impact you over time and may even lead to heart attack or stroke, as well as other issues.
YOUR FIX: DON’T panic, but DO address your snoring…period. Don’t put this off. It’s as simple as one doctor’s visit for your own peace of mind, and your own long, healthy future.
So, you snore a little at night. It’s not THAT bad.
If you’re having trouble deciding whether or not your snoring is something to worry about (our recommendation: see your doctor either way), you should know that there are three grades of snoring to determine how serious your condition may be.
The grading system was determined scientifically and is noted by the National Health Service (UK) as a reliable starting gauge for your snoring symptoms.
Grade One snoring is commonly called “simple snoring.” It may or may not be troublesome to a partner, but in general is not particularly loud/intrusive. Grade One snoring usually does not negatively impact breathing (oxygen levels remain appropriate and breathing does not temporarily stop following the snore).
Grade One snoring will most likely be noticed fewer than three times a week. Note that light snores may occur regularly but not be noticed by either the snorer or a partner.
Grade Two snoring is more regular (or rather, is noticed on a regular basis). It is at this point that breathing difficulties may begin. You may awake grunting, sniffling or even experiencing a mild choking sensation, which is caused by a cessation of breathing followed by the body’s reflexes to get your breathing going again.
Grade Two snoring may be severe enough to warrant your beginning to worry, and to wonder whether you should be seeing your doctor to find out exactly what’s going on. You may find you’re feeling sleepy or disoriented during the day, or that your mood is negatively affected. These are all side effects of disordered sleeping and of possible temporary oxygen deprivation during periods of snoring.
Grade Three is where you might be looking at a serious condition. You may be experiencing OSA (obstructive sleep apnea), where your breathing is restricted and may stop entirely for periods of seconds up to a full minute multiple times a night, and you may be experiencing severe daytime drowsiness, anxiety, depression, lack of coordination, memory loss and other serious issues.
Remember: don’t panic! Snoring is not unusual, and not all types of snoring are necessarily bad. But since certain types and frequency of snoring can impact your health, it’s important to know what you’re dealing with, and to address the problem rather than sweeping it under the rug…or the pillow.
From the time we’re out of our mother’s womb and into the larger world, we’re encouraged, manipulated, and rocked and cuddled into sleeping through the night.
Indeed, sleeping through the night is considered, by most lay and expert individuals alike, to be a major physical and neurological maturity milestone in an infant’s life.
And we only go on from there, assuming an unbroken eight hours of rest to be normal and blaming urinary issues, stress, growth spurts and more for those times we do awaken at night.
It seems as though sleeping through the night is expected; anything else is, from the age of three to six months onward, considered downright unnatural. But what if everything we think we know about sleeping through the night is wrong – and even contrary to what our biology requires of us?
The genus Homo (we are, currently, Homo sapiens sapiens) has been around, as far as archaeologists can ascertain, for about 250,000 years.
Yet until very recently in our history, people did NOT sleep a straight 8-10 hours, academia is now revealing.
Roger Ekirch, Virginia Tech Department of History professor and author of the 2001 essay “Sleep We Have Lost: Pre-Industrial Slumber in the British Isles,” notes that all the way up until early modern Europe and the U.S., people engaged in what he terms “segmented sleep,” with a period of “quiet wakefulness” for approximately an hour in the early morning.
Ekirch says this type of broken sleep was still, at the time of the publication of his study, practiced in a number of locales across the globe, including groups in Brazil, Central America, and Nigeria.
Why don’t we sleep in this way anymore, if the overwhelming majority of our history was naturally spent in broken sleep during the night?
Ekirch says artificial lighting of a strength similar to that we experience during daytime is a recent phenomenon, heralded by the general use of electricity, and has extended our evenings into periods of heightened wakefulness.
This means we feel the need to catch up on sleep when we finally get there, and waking is considered unusual rather than the norm that would occur when getting sleepy by candlelight after 7 or 8pm through an early rise of 5 or 6am.
So how are we adjusting? A daunting number of individuals in the U.S. and other industrialized nations seem to be losing out on sleep and its benefits, and the effect is only increasing. But so far, there’s no way to know this is directly related to comparatively new sleep patterns v. our historical way of sleeping.
However, of note is that quantity seems to be the area of concern more so than quantity, so a change in sleep as opposed to how our ancestors hit the mat at night could be part of the puzzle of modern society’s sleep issues.
Your best bet: turn off the electronics at night and allow yourself AT LEAST one electronics-free (or as low electronic as possible; i.e., keep one or two low lights on) hour prior to bedtime. Get to bed earlier and if you wake during the night, ride it out while relaxing and having a little daydream. If you fall back asleep, great – wake up at your normal time for your day.
By making small changes and reducing artificial influences such as electric light, who knows – you may experience your best sleep ever.
It’s well-known that many elderly people appear to suddenly need less sleep. A senior may get up much earlier than he or she did as a younger person, and/or may go to bed later or awaken during the night for periods without seeming to suffer the effects of exhaustion the next day.
It’s apparent that in general, older people simply don’t need as much sleep (and there’s some science to back this up).
Now, in a reverse of an old truism, scientists have uncovered a connection between a need for more than nine hours of sleep per night in seniors, and an increased dementia risk.
But it’s not all gloom and doom…read on.
Researchers interpreting results from the Framingham Heart Study uncovered something surprising: study participants who reported a greater need for sleep were nearly twice as likely to develop dementia, including dementia due to Alzheimer’s Disease.
The amount of sleep was self-reported, throwing one question into the equation: how accurate is self-reporting? Another question looming above the study is whether correlation really means causation, and if so, which causes or increases the risk of which (the dementia, or the increased sleep).
It’s not all bad news, apparently: people without a high school degree were more likely to see this combined effect of increased sleep/dementia. That means that potentially, education could have a protective element to the brain, though such a supposition is a leap and requires further research.
If there is such a tie-in, mental exercises such as learning something new might have positive effects against the onset of brain degeneration, but more research is needed, study critics warn.
Sleeping too much can be as much a warning as sleeping too little. Too much sleep or waking tired after a normal amount of sleep (7-9 hours) in any adult age group can be a red flag, but don’t panic.
Instead, see your doctor. There can be many reasons for a sudden increase in the need for sleep. If you’re worried about the dementia tie-in, mention this to your doctor. She can guide you on what tests to take and how to predict whether you’re at risk.
In the meantime, it can’t hurt and can only help to try to stay mentally sharp and alert.
Working out your body is easy, and it’s easy to see results: if you’re stronger, healthier and look better, your workout is probably, well, working. But what about “working out” your brain?
This is a difficult question, as most “brain games” studies have been done on rodents; when humans are studied, this is often accomplished by self-reporting, which can be tricky.
On the other hand, findings such as the education level tie-in above are promising, and tantalizing.
In general, learning something new appears to stretch the brain’s capacity. So too does anything with a visual/spacial element.
Ask your doctor what she recommends as a “brain games” schedule if you’re looking to get, or stay, sharp.
On the surface, sleep appears to serve some very basic, and very logical, functions.
For example, scientists have noted for some time now that a significant portion of growth and repair occur on a cellular level during sleep.
And it makes perfect sense that we expend energy, get tired, and need to rest and recuperate in order to be able to do it all over again the next day.
But researchers are now saying we sleep in order to “forget” certain portions of our day so we can remove interference.
As a sort of street-sweep of extraneous but immediately non-useful information, our brains backtrack and delete connections of synapses made during the day, the research says.
According to interpreters of the two studies, in a way, the process is like deleting memory from our hard drives, or at least relegating it to folders that may not be revisited in the short term, if ever.
To prove the hypothesis, researchers gave neurons in dishes a drug that overstimulated them into new growth. After this spur of growth, the neurons actually snipped back some of this growth, the researchers have revealed.
Supporting tests paired a slowing of brain waves, as during sleep, with a paring back of neurons.
The tissue for the petri dish experiments was obtained from mice.
Interestingly, however, during this “paring down” process, some specific neurons appeared to not be touched but rather, left intact.
The researchers theorize that these specific synapse connections could relate in some way to memory or general data that the brain has, through its life experience, found useful, and therefore elects to keep, at least for now.
It has not yet been determined whether the human brain reacts in exactly the same way as the mouse brain tissue and EEGs (which measured brain waves) found.
Not all of the brain’s function has yet been accounted for, and estimates run a wide and surprising gamut from 65-90% of the brain potentially “empty” of current usage. This concept is far from certain to date, as there could be functions in the brain not yet accounted for or measurable, or “empty space,” so to speak, could be based on the potential for further growth as humans, like all creatures, are still evolving biologically.
However, it’s well-known that competing information in the immediate consciousness of any given individual can be confusing and reads as “white noise” to the person, potentially drowning out data that’s important in the here-and-now.
Too much of this type of confusion could have negative consequences such as less safe driving, inability to perform work or school functions, agitation or other negative conditions that harm rather than help the person.
An ability to compartmentalize what isn’t immediately necessary and delete what is perceived by the brain to be useless both short- and long-term is critical for thought organization, calmness and balance, experts say.
In the wake of the fascinating reports, some experts are saying more research is needed, citing correlation v. causation: in other words, just because two events happen at roughly the same time does not mean one has directly caused the other.
It’s possible, for example, that the “dumping” of unnecessary information could be based on a biorhythm or lack of a light source, as would happen in nature during nighttime, were no electronic lighting available.
Or they could be based on an individual’s body clock independent of a sleep/wake schedule, could be different from mice than in humans, or may not happen in humans at all.
However, the information IS intriguing, and given similar mechanisms in mammalian brains in some respects, the papers could lead to a better understanding of the brain, sleep, and exactly what the brain is capable of doing.
If you think you know everything there is to know about snoring, think again. Conventional wisdom has led to some odd beliefs regarding snoring. Test your snoring knowledge with the following.
1. Snoring is normal.
NOT NECESSARILY. Heavier breathing at night is normal due to relaxation of the throat, mouth and jaw muscles and due to changes in how deeply we breathe as we move through the stages of sleep. However, rumbling snores, stoppage of breath or gasps are NOT normal sleep conditions for anyone, and should be reported to a physician.
2. Only men snore.
FALSE. According to the National Sleep Foundation, men are almost twice as likely to snore as women, but since 90 million adults in the U.S. snore, it’s not like the women’s snoring faction is chump change. In addition, snoring in women tends to increase after menopause, experts warn.
3. Only overweight people snore.
FALSE. Although overweight people are significantly more likely to snore, a person of any weight might snore, due to anyone of a number of issues including obstruction of the throat by polyps or other growths, a deviated septum, allergies, illness, heart issues or another condition.
4. A child’s snoring is not harmful to him/her.
NOT NECESSARILY. A child should not be snoring. As with adults, she may breathe heavily at night, but if snoring is loud enough to be noticed, she may have some issue that needs to be addressed, so make an appointment with the pediatrician to have her health checked out.
5. Insomnia aids can help with snoring.
FALSE. Actually, chemically-induced sleep may make breathing even harder for the sleeper and can temporarily make a snoring condition worse.
6. Sleeping on one’s back is best/healthiest.
FALSE. Sleeping on the back can make snoring worse in some individuals, as the muscles in the palate (top of the mouth) and throat close down with gravity. If you’re trying different sleep positions for your snoring (and sleep apnea has been ruled out), try your side instead.
7. There are operations that can stop snoring.
NOT ALWAYS TRUE. If your snoring is caused or made worse by obstructions – such as a deviated septum or polyps – their surgical removal may improve the condition. However, not all snoring conditions are caused by obstructions, and even when they are, many sufferers continue to snore post-removal.
8. If you snore, it’s because of one part of your system – your nose, throat or palate, for example.
NOT NECESSARILY. Some snorers snore because of one specific part being swollen, too large, having growths or overrelaxing during sleep, but in many cases, snoring can not be pinpointed this precisely.
9. An alcoholic drink before bed will relax the body and help lessen snoring.
FALSE. The overly-deep but frequent self-interrupting sleep drinkers experience may actually make snoring worse.
10. Snoring is annoying, but not dangerous.
NOT NECESSARILY. Snoring will not definitely harm you, but sometimes, snoring points to a condition called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which results in oxygen loss at night and has been linked to serious health issues. Snoring could also point to another undiagnosed condition. See your doctor if you suspect you snore or if your partner has told you that you snore.
The old adage (and constant meme) is of the snoring husband and plagued wife. Generally, the image is of the man with his mouth wide open and eyes blissfully shut; the woman is sitting up in bed jamming something (her hands, a pillow, anything) over her ears.
But is this always accurate?
Actually, a surprising number of women snore – up to 40 million in the U.S., according to the National Sleep Foundation. And while that’s just half of men’s number, it’s significant…and it warrants investigating further if women wish to be healthy.
Strangely enough, it seems women are expected not to snore…which means their snoring may be made light of or even overlooked by a very heavy-sleeping partner who is not easily wakened.
However, human bodies are remarkably similar, and men and women have the same mouth/throat physiology and the same changes to muscle relaxation and oxygen intake at night (with men taking in somewhat more, just as they do during the day).
It seems it’s offensive to admit a woman snores. But this attitude could be doing more harm than good when you take the dangers of snoring into consideration.
Even if a woman’s snoring seems lighter than her partner’s, or is less loud, the health risks remain.
These may include:
While there are marked similarities, there are also some differences between what causes snoring in women and men. Let’s look at each.
For one thing, hormone changes have been implicated in snoring, particularly the ones involved during menopause. While “female” hormones are believed to have a protective effect on the upper airway, once these reduce or become erratic in the years leading up to menopause (and then plunge once menopause is reached), a change takes place, and women become much more at risk for snoring-related disease and for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
For another, women are affected by obesity in large numbers (just as with the general population). Obesity has been implicated in OSA risk factors and there may be a symbiotic effect (the obesity makes the snoring worse, the snoring increases the risk for ongoing obesity, and so it continues).
Finally, external influences assaulting the body, such as allergies or cigarette smoking, can make snoring worse in women just as they can in men.
Don’t assume you don’t snore simply because nobody has ever elbowed you in the night in irritation. If you suspect snoring, uncover the truth and get the help you need, so you can get and stay healthy.
On any snoring and sleep-related site (like this one), you’ll find plenty of information on how Western society chronically gets too little sleep.
But here’s an interesting “other side of the coin”: just how little sleep can we get away with?
First, let’s see what the experts have to say about sleep requirement ranges.
The National Sleep Foundation notes varying recommended amounts of sleep per the age of the sleeper. You probably already know that newborns sleep a lot, in total (even though it sure doesn’t feel like it at 3AM!), that the elderly may get up quite early and that you need to blast your teen out of bed at noon on Saturdays. But just how much is enough sleep, per age group?
Here’s what the NSF had to say, per 2015 updated recommendations:
You probably know this too, but it bears stating that there’s a reason each category above is a range and not an exact figure. Any given individual will require more or less sleep within the sleep spectrum; more on this later in the article. So though you may think you’re getting the sleep you should, you could actually be deficient on deep, quality rest.
Either way, it’s clear that six hours should be anyone’s bare minimum, no matter what age he or she is, so try never to dip below that range if at all possible.
Most people experience poor sleep once in a while. It may not be enough sleep total, or it may just be a bad night where you toss, turn and seem to wake up more tired than when you put your head down on the pillow.
It’s unlikely that the very rare night of an hour or two of missed sleep will have long-term negative effects and oddly enough, some studies even suggest that less sleep is healthier overall for the body than an excess of it.
It’s when poor sleep continues that you may run into problems, such as memory and cognition issues, anxiety and depression, an increased risk of accidents (particularly driving and machinery operation), and other issues.
Beware – letting a poor-sleep condition continue could be hazardous to your health (and your safety). But some of us aren’t sure whether we’re tired or simply stressed, and whether we should be cashing it in earlier each night or looking for other causes to various physical and emotional complaints.
The real issue here is that you are an individual, and you have your own physical needs. In addition, at any given time in your life, you may be under more or less stress, be battling illness or otherwise have a temporarily changed need for the amount of sleep you’re used to getting.
Here are some signs that you may not be getting enough sleep:
Because the above symptoms could have a number of causes, see your doctor and find out how you can make improvements. A sleep study may be in order to determine the total length and quality of your sleep (for example, how much rapid eye movement – REM – you experience, how much your body moves around during the night, whether you are snoring and how much oxygen you’re getting during sleep).