There’s an old stereotype that overweight people snore more than thin people.
But is it entirely a stereotype – or is there an element of truth?
According to emerging research, the chicken-or-egg scenario of weight and snoring may actually be interactive, with one condition influencing the other and each condition potentially worsening over time.
Here’s the scoop…and what to do about it.
Let’s start with the obvious: being overweight can increase snoring, and may lead in some individuals to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Why? Because excess fat doesn’t just accumulate in our tummy or thighs. It can build up in the face, around the jawline and around the neck. This means constricted air, particularly when the person is lying down.
Another reason is that fat around the chest and middle will, like the neck and facial fat described above, produce weight on the lungs and the throat when one is lying down. Once again, you have a constriction and potentially obstructed airflow, which results in snoring.
But here’s something REALLY fascinating (and daunting): snoring may actually increase one’s propensity to gain unwanted weight. The reason: interrupted sleep at night can disrupt your delicate hormonal system, and when your hormonal balance is disturbed, any one or more of a number of possible ill effects can result – including a tendency to store fat.
In addition, if you’re waking or partially waking during the night (which you may or may not remember later), you’ll probably be more tired and sluggish during the day. This means you’ll be less active and probably more hungry, as the body instinctively looks for food in absence of ready energy – a logical, but here unwarranted, biological conclusion.
The result? You’re moving less, eating more…and becoming more overweight.
Meanwhile, apparently, a larger neck measurement could mean more snoring, though once again, whether one causes the other or whether both are caused by something else entirely has not been established. Another mystery: whether or not the larger measurement is due to significantly more fat, the correlation appears to remain.
However, given the measurement correlation, adding to whatever your current neck circumference is by increasing in unneeded weight can’t help and my harm you.
The danger zone: greater than 17″ circumference in men, and greater than 16″ circumference for women.
Although the mechanism of each correlation is not always clear, one thing stands out: there is a link between obesity and snoring, in both women and men.
The first thing you need to do if you’re overweight, a snorer, or both, is to get a thorough once-over from your doctor. There could be some underlying issue causing both conditions, or there may be a related issue that the conditions are in the process of worsening.
Once you’ve gotten your doctor’s say-so, yes, it IS time to lose weight. Your doctor can help with this too, or do your own calculations on a free online site (myfitnesspal and fitday are two free sites to track calories, activities and macros – protein, fat and carbs – as well as minerals and other dietary restrictions).
You CAN do this. Every bad night is contributing further to ill health, so don’t wait. Get started now on becoming healthier, and sleeping more easily.
Poor sleep is often connected to snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. It can be a chicken or egg scenario – fear of OSA episodes may interrupt one’s ability to relax in the first place, for example – but while the exact mechanism isn’t always known, it’s clear that sleep issues and snoring have something of a parallel history.
If you have trouble getting to sleep (or staying there…both are indications of insomnia), you may be at a loss as to what’s causing the problem. Here are the top five reasons for the frustrating condition, and what you can do about them right now – before you miss another moment’s sleep.
This is an obvious one, and you’ve probably heard it before, but it’s true: stress really can keep you from falling asleep, or cause multiple wakings during the night. It can also reduce your overall quality of sleep. Stress produces more adrenaline than you normally have in your body during a non-stressed state. This is so that you may either “fight or flee” from what your body can only understand as a threat. Because your body can’t differentiate the threats of a charging tiger and the promotion you’re coveting potentially going to a lesser candidate, the adrenaline will be there, ready to allow you to do something, anything – and now, now, now!
It’s clear that this setup is not sleep-promoting. Even if you attempt to calm yourself down before bedtime, the stress hormones will still be circulating. You’ll lie in bed worrying because it’s getting later and later and you have a big day tomorrow, so instead of calming down, more stress hormones are produced and you’re more awake than ever. It’s a catch-22 situation.
What to Do About It
Put things off. Yes, really. This may be the one and only time in your life you hear such advice, but in this case, do it! If you’re lying in bed stressing, that means what you’re stressing about can’t be dealt with tonight. (If it could, you’d be out dealing with it, bedtime or no bedtime.)
So schedule an appointment with yourself to worry about the situation. (Again, yep – really!) You can even put Worry Time on your phone calendar to give your brain the double message that 1. this is not the time to worry and 2. this situation WILL be dealt with. Make your “appointment” for some very awake time – for instance, while driving to work. Then brainstorm during the drive or have your little worry session, and either deal with the issue (if possible) or put it aside until the next Worry Time session (if it’s an issue you’re required to wait and not make a move on).
Your body has pre-programmed rhythms that correspond to different aspects of your day and night and respond to cues. For example, sunlight will naturally produce wakefulness, and a slowing down at night signals that it’s almost bedtime.
Waking up influences our get-to-sleep rhythm too. It’s not just that waking later means you won’t be tired until later; rather, disorganized wake times – early for an early meeting Tuesday; normal work wake time on Wednesday; up at 6AM for your workout Saturday; up at 11AM Sunday to sleep in – tend to throw all your rhythms out of whack, confusing the issue of when to start feeling sleepy.
What to Do About It
It’s tempting to sleep in while you can, especially if you’re short on sleep time to begin with. But resist the temptation. Plan an easygoing Sunday, but still get up around your normal waketime. If your schedule varies during the week (for instance, perhaps Wednesdays are always a “later” morning for you as work opens one hour later that day), still get up at your normal time.
You are teaching your body in this way when wake time is, and it will begin to recognize that and will set its “sleep time” as a much more regular hour, too.
You knew we’d get to this. It’s true (and it’s important): snoring, if the cause is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), absolutely can throw your sleep off-kilter and cause you to sleep poorly the next night. With OSA, often, patients will stop breathing for seconds or even a minute or two at a time. That’s terrifying, and is an emergency signal to your body. You may subconsciously or physiologically resist falling asleep for this reason.
With OSA, your body also doesn’t register that it has had a “complete” sleep, because though you may not remember later, you do slightly wake during each episode and can be pulled out of various portions of the sleep cycle (REM sleep, for example). So your body and brain aren’t sure when the next sleep should happen. When you put your head down on the pillow the next night, the result can be staring at the ceiling.
What to Do About It
Treat it. Sure, that sounds simple, and there may be a curve here while you and your doctor work out what’s best to treat your OSA. But you MUST treat it. Getting even, regular breathing at night with as little interruption as possible is necessary so you can have a good night’s sleep.
It sounds counterintuitive, but medications designed to produce sleep can actually cause more issues in the long run. At first they “knock you out,” but later you discover your sleep is worse than ever, and that you need to take more medications to produce the desired effect. At this point you may be tempted to get a prescription. What’s going on?
Actually, medications designed to induce sleep are producing what is an “artificial sleep,” meaning they put you into a deeper sleep faster than naturally falling asleep would, while side effects may bring you back to semi-wakefulness throughout the night. Over time, your body is confused by the signals it’s receiving and may also be becoming immune to the effects of the medication, necessitating more of it per dose. To make matters worse, in the morning you may be groggy, with slowed reflexes – and that can be dangerous.
What to Do About It
Stop taking them. Too simple? It’s your Step One and it’s unavoidable. Chaos may ensue for a few days up to a couple of weeks; be ready for that. (If possible, stop cessation of a continuous OTC sleep medication schedule during a time period where you don’t have to be as productive as usual – say, vacation.) After that, you’ll begin to get more on an even keel and you can begin addressing your insomnia in other ways, such as we describe in this article, or whatever course your doctor recommends including an eating, workout, rest and stress-reduction protocol.
Many of us just can’t put them down. If it’s not the phone, it’s the tablet. If it’s not the tablet, it’s the laptop. If it’s not the laptop, it’s the Wii. Our world is FULL of electronics. And we love them. Why wouldn’t we? They’re cool, they’re often functional and they make us feel connected to the world around us.
Unfortunately, electronics pull double-duty on keeping us awake at bedtime. One half of the equation is the type of stimulation that reading while viewing images produces; this double-whammy is HIGHLY stimulating even if we feel “zoned out” or hypnotized by it. The other half of the issue is that electronics generally produce artificial light, signaling to our brains that it is nowhere NEAR bedtime.
What to Do About It
We know you’re going to groan – but put down/turn off ALL electronic devices at least one full hour before bedtime. Two hours is even better, but that’s your call. You need to show your brain that “stimulation time” is over, and your brain needs time to register this fact – period. You can’t and won’t do that by staring at a moving, word-filled, visuals-filled, colorful, bright screen. (Not even if you have it “dimmed.”)
Put the electronics down. Sit peacefully. Listen to music. You can read; words without the stimulation of light and graphics can be soothing rather than stimulating. Take a warm bath. Then hop into bed and have a great, fulfilling sleep.
When it comes to a loud, intrusive and partner-waking (or self-waking) snore problem, people will try anything. And we don’t blame them – we’ve been there.
But one trend we’ve been seeing is concerning, and that is the use of antihistamines to treat snoring.
Please be aware that the following piece was not written by a physician. We advise you to see your doctor before taking any medication for your snoring or before stopping current medications.
Let’s begin by pointing out that it’s not as if the use of antihistamines for snoring-related issues is anything new or controversial. Under certain conditions, antihistamines may be able to help with snoring.
If you’ve ever had a cold or the flu and were so stopped up you couldn’t sleep, you know how this works: you lie in bed gasping for air, take medication to reduce the inflammation (antihistamines block histamine receptors and reduce swelling) and are able to breathe easier – and finally get some sleep.
In fact, your doctor may have recommended this route in the past if you were experiencing a temporary inflammation issue – such as the above mentioned cold – or if you’re a chronic allergy sufferer.
Because of these common uses for antihistamines, when researching snoring solutions, the snorer is likely to come across any number of individuals for whom antihistamines have worked, and are willing to try the strategy. But is this route the right one for every snorer?
The problem is that not all snoring issues are caused by inflammation or a histamine response.
If, for example, excess weight, your sleep position, or over-relaxation of the mouth and throat muscles during sleep are your problem, antihistamines won’t do anything to combat those issues.
In some situations, using this class of medications may even make things worse. The largest problem here is twofold: antihistamines tend to dry things out in the body, and they produce over-relaxation. Dryness can make snoring worse, not better, and can cause irritation in the mouth or throat that wasn’t there in the first place. And the over-relaxation response can make muscles even more lax, contributing to more, and worse, snoring.
The backlash the next day can be an issue as well: antihistamines are notorious not only for causing drowsiness but for something of a “hangover” or “jet lag” effect in the morning, making your day less productive and in some situations (driving, for example), even dangerous.
When it comes to snoring, there’s no one answer for everyone. But here are the steps we recommend:
1. See your doctor. There may be an underlying issue or condition.
2. Change your sleep position. On your back is the worst position for snoring. Stomach-sleeping isn’t ideal either. Try to train yourself to sleep on your side. Using a body pillow to position yourself can help with this.
3. Make sure your pillow aligns your neck and head. If your neck kinks from a too-soft or too-thick pillow, breathing will be obstructed during the night and could contribute to snoring.
4. Ask your partner how often s/he notices you snoring. Ask whether your snoring is waking him/her up. If the answer is yes, or if you yourself are waking due to snoring or a cessation of breathing, report this to your doctor.
5. Keep your room from being too dry. Invest in a humidifier if necessary.
6. Keep your room on the cooler, rather than warmer, side.
7. Reduce or eliminate drinking, if possible. Drinking can relax muscles too much and contribute to snoring.
8. Take all medications exactly as prescribed by your doctor.
Snoring can be a difficult issue to unravel. Do try safe recommendations to combat snoring…but leave medication as a last resort. There may be a simpler solution with fewer or no side effects so you can get a good night’s sleep.
If your partner has told you your snoring is “deafening,” it may not be an exaggeration: this 2003 study showed a link between snoring and hearing loss for snorers’ bedfellows.
Researchers studied healthy individuals ages 35-55 who had no history of noise exposure (such as factory workers or army personnel). The bed partners of snorers consistently showed unilateral (only one ear) hearing loss. In each case, the issue was in the ear that faced the side of the snorer.
Snoring has been likened to “an airplane flying overhead” or “a bomb going off” – and according to the researchers, these comparisons may not be far off. Sounds above 80 decibels mean the risk of hearing loss, and snoring can actually reach 100 decibels, experts say.
If you snore, you’re not the only one you need to worry about. Make sure you’re taking care of your partner’s issues related to your snoring too.
You’re not the bad guy for snoring, but your snoring IS affecting your partner. Be sure to take care of her while you’re working on taking care of yourself. The two of you are equally important…and both deserve relief from snoring issues. Until next time, take gentle care!
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has been linked to depression symptoms, according to data from the CDC. But a 2012 study found that sleep-disordered breathing (snoring, gasps and other issues during sleep) has a depression link even in patients not diagnosed with OSA.
Researchers in the 2012 study weren’t certain of correlation v. causation conclusions, but one possible link may be diminished oxygen during the brain during disordered sleep episodes. The reduced oxygen flow may lead to symptoms including those of depression, according to data.
In addition, poor sleep overall means worse productivity and functioning the next day, which over time could contribute to depression.
It’s too early to theorize that patients being treated for depression will need less medication and other therapies once their sleep issues are resolved, but the link warrants further study, according to researchers.
On the positive side, these and other findings mean both sleep and depression may be treated more effectively in the future.
In fact, research at the University of Calgary, Canada, published in November 2014 indicated that CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) and/or mandibular advancement devices (sleep mouthpiece) therapies could improve symptoms of depression over time as sleep quality improved.
The improvements were modest but encouraging, according to researchers.
Never overlook symptoms of depression. Even if you feel you know the cause (for instance, a difficult period in your life, sleep issues or other reasons), depression is a serious disease which needs to be addressed by your doctor.
Because of the well-known link between sleep issues and depression, many doctors who treat a patient for sleep disorders will also screen for depression. However, not all do. Don’t be embarrassed about addressing possible depression issues with your physician, and don’t think it will “just go away” or that you need to tough it out. Help is out there.
Meanwhile, if you’ve been diagnosed with a sleep disorder, do follow your doctor’s instructions exactly. If you haven’t seen your doctor yet for your sleep issues and you’re feeling down, depressed, less productive, hopeless or anxious, make an appointment today. Don’t wait on this critical issue.
You may feel your sleep and depression issues are insurmountable. They’re not. Newer and better treatments are being developed and revealed consistently in the field of both sleep and mental health. Addressing your sleep issues may be a first step toward better health not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. Addressing this all-important part of your life – good sleep – can be a first step toward improving your life in ways you never expected.
It may seem cute when your little one snores softly in her sleep, but snoring isn’t always simply the stuff of adorable Youtube and Facebook shares. Though snoring can be entirely non-harmful in children, there are signs to watch out for. Here’s how to know when it’s time to take steps toward curing your child’s snoring.
First of all, it’s important to keep in mind that many healthy children snore occasionally, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Statistics show that approximately 10% of children ages three and up snore at some point during the night. And children who have allergies or who are currently ill – for example, with a cold or cough – may snore more than usual.
However, up to 3% of regular snorers may have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a more serious condition than the occasional snort you may be hearing from your child’s room at night.
The causes of snoring often match those found in adults, and include:
Although statistically, fewer children than adults have OSA, it is possible for a child to have OSA, according to sleep experts.
Signs to watch for include:
A statistical percentage of children with OSA may have:
Even if you do not suspect OSA, you should take your child to the doctor whenever you suspect any sleep disturbance. NEVER attempt to self-diagnose or self-treat a snoring child. Even if the snoring itself isn’t dangerous, there may be contributing factors that your doctor can uncover and treat.
Generally, a doctor who suspects sleep issues in a child will order a sleep study. A sleep study involves electrodes painlessly being attached to various areas of the child’s body, including the scalp, neck, back, chest and possibly arms and legs. Brain activity, heart and lung activity and other factors will all be monitored during the study. Although it can be difficult for a child to sleep under such circumstances, most children sleep at least a few hours during the sleep study, enabling medical observers to record the data they need in order for your doctor to make a diagnosis.
Most of the time, the child will be provided with a cozy, welcoming environment such as homelike bedding, low lighting, cheery wall decor and perhaps even a stuffed animal. Your child will probably be able to take a favorite “stuffy,” blanket or book to the study so s/he can fall asleep more easily. Depending upon your child’s age, you may be able to be in the bed with the child during the sleep study, which will help her relax.
Following your child’s sleep study, you will be asked to await your doctor’s call with the results. Even if certain abnormal aspects are observed during the study, the technicians will not be able to reveal information to you. Don’t worry during this time; know that you’re doing what’s best for your child and that if any issues are discovered, there IS help.
If OSA is diagnosed, there are a number of treatments your doctor may recommend, depending upon the reasons and contributing factors to the OSA. For example, if your child is overweight, her doctor may recommend an eating and exercise program that’s livable but will help her get control over this issue. If she needs one, a comfortable CPAP machine may be prescribed. Allergies or illnesses may be able to be treated with medications, inhalers, and/or a humidifier. In rare cases, surgery may be recommended. Generally, this is a last resort, especially in children.
Your child’s health, happiness and even schoolwork and grades depend upon a good night’s sleep. Know that by investigating your child’s sleep and sleep health, you’re taking steps to make sure both her present and her future will be the best they can possibly be.
If you snore, you already know it can be bothersome to your partner – but did you know how much? And were you aware that your snoring may be compromising your sexual health too…and possibly your job? Here are some eye-opening facts on snoring that you need to know.
According to the National Sleep Foundation’s (NSA) 2002 Sleep in America poll, U.S. adults reported the following:
It’s important to remember that not every person knows that he or she snores, suggesting that more adults than the above statistics may actually snore.
Contrary to a general belief that men are the snorers of the household, about 22% of women reported snoring, according to the NSA.
Some preliminary research suggests that the percentage of snoring women rises after menopause, closing the gap between men and women when it comes to snoring.
According to Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit researchers, snoring is a bigger risk factor for stroke and heart attack than smoking, being overweight, or high cholesterol. The theory is that snoring causes or contributes to damage to the arteries over time.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a dangerous condition in which the patient stops breathing following a snore multiple times per night, is now as common as Type II diabetes, according to information from the American Sleep Apnea Association. It affects 18 million U.S. adults.
Though correlation v. causation is debated among medical experts, at least one study found that 40% of men diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea have erectile dysfunction (ED). Results were compared to a control group without OSA, with OSA sufferers having a much higher prevalence of ED.
A survey from the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine determined that 43% of adults ages 35-44 (“Generation X”/Gen X) lose sleep due to a partner snoring, and 24% either sleep in separate bedrooms or are considering doing so. And one out of 10 respondents said snoring was a factor in ending at least one relationship. A whopping 40% of women labeled snoring “a turn-off” in relationships.
Poor sleep can be caused by a number of factors, snoring and interrupted sleep due to OSA among them. The NIH reports that 20% of auto accidents in the U.S. are linked to snoring, independent of alcohol consumption.
According to the NIH, interrupted sleep and lack of a full night’s sleep has a negative impact on employment and may lead to accidents in the workforce.
Snoring is not just an annoyance – and it’s not something to be taken lightly. If you snore or suspect you may snore, get help immediately so you can live a longer, healthier and happier life – and live, love and perform better.
Recently, my best friend’s wife (and my own friend since college days) told me an interesting story.
“I know you’re into the whole snoring thing” she said (not exactly how I’d have put it myself), “so I thought you’d want to hear this. Micah says I snore!”
Apparently, my friend had woken up her husband with a set of snores that scared him. “He says I actually stopped breathing for a second,” she insisted. “I think I’m the only girl snorer in the western world!”
She’s wrong. Men are certainly at higher risk than women for being snorers (and potentially having a serious sleep condition called OSA), but women do snore. It’s just such myths as this one that make it important to know potential signs of snoring, even if you – or your spouse – has never noticed the snoring. Here’s what to look out for.
Okay, so there’s nothing you can do about this one. But it is true that men snore more than women. Some 40% of men and 24% of women snore, according to The American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine.
The exact reason isn’t known, but it could be a combination of factors, according to researchers. It is possible that a man’s generally larger size as compared to the average woman may be a factor; he simply has more weight (even if it’s not fat) pressing on his upper rib cage at night. Genetics may also play a part – the inherited structure of your head and neck may make breathing more difficult at night.
Don’t think if you’re a woman you’re in the clear, though: another theory is that that men sleep more heavily than women and/or are less sensitive to being woken to the noise, another reason not to discount the possibility of snoring if you’re a woman.
What Can You Do? Recognize that as a man, your potential to snore is higher. Look for signs as well as risk factors (see below). As a woman: don’t discount the possibility that you may snore. Twenty four percent is still quite a high number. For both sexes, there could be some special anti-snoring devices, but check with your doctor first to see what type of snorer you are.
There’s no discounting the link between obesity and snoring (see this article). Obesity may cause or exacerbate snoring in a number of ways. The most obvious is that more weight is pressing on the lungs and upper airway during sleep, causing breathing to be more difficult. But it’s also possible hormones, which can collect in fatty deposits and accumulate to higher than normal levels, may play a part.
Obese people also may have less efficient circulation, which could contribute to the problem.
What Can You Do? Losing weight isn’t always easy – if it were, 65% of adults in the U.S. wouldn’t be overweight or obese. But even taking small steps toward your goal of weight loss can help. And some experts claim that as little as a 15% weight loss in overweight individuals may help reduce snoring at night.
Being inactive doesn’t just contribute to overweight (see above); it can also slow your metabolism overall.
And though when we hear “metabolism” we think “weight,” your metabolism also controls other vital functions of your body – including respiration.
Research suggests that people who get at least five days per week of moderate exercise are less likely to be snorers, with the consensus being that a conditioned respiratory system works better at night, too.
What Can You Do? “Work out” your respiratory system by getting in 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day. A fast walk, an energetic swim or a bicycle ride can all accomplish this.
This is one of the classic hallmarks of snoring, or at least mouth breathing, according to experts. If your mouth is open for an unusual percentage of the night, it will feel dry when you awaken. And often, the reason one’s mouth is open is because of snoring.
What Can You Do? If you’re waking in the morning with dry mouth, and you have any of the other factors listed here – or even if you simply have a suspicion that you’ve been snoring – see your doctor for a sleep study. This is the single best way to determine whether you’ve been snoring.
In the meantime, you can treat the symptoms by simply drinking water, but don’t think that because the symptoms are better, the cause has gone away. You need to see a professional to be sure.
Allergy sufferers tend to snore more than non-sufferers. That’s because swelling in the nose, mouth and throat, as well as sensitivities to particles in the air, can all make breathing more difficult at night.
What Can You Do? Make sure you’re following your doctor’s allergy instructions exactly. If he has prescribed allergy medication, follow the instructions and dosage exactly.
Allergy symptoms can wax and wane, so make an appointment with your doctor if you notice changes.
A classic sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is tiredness during the day with no other explained cause. A patient with OSA will experience non-breathing events during the night. If it sounds scary, that’s because it is – OSA comes with its own associated set of risks (including high blood pressure and heart disease). DO NOT wait to see a doctor if you suspect OSA.
What Can You Do? Follow your doctor’s instructions exactly. Some OSA sufferers may benefit from devices that keep the jaw forward and the airway open, such as chin straps or mouth guards. Others may need additional help, such as a CPAP machine (a machine that continuously delivers oxygen through your mouth at night).
Though it’s relaxing and often a social activity, alcohol depresses your entire system. If you regularly consume large quantities of alcohol, your respiratory system may not be working as efficiently during sleep.
What Can You Do? Moderate your alcohol intake. If you feel you have a problem with alcohol, get help – don’t feel ashamed or afraid to take this crucial step. Recovery.org has a toll-free number to call, as well as information on what to expect.
Whether you have the above signs or risk factors, or simply suspect that you might snore, see your doctor. Snoring can potentially lead to other, more serious problems due to the decrease in oxygen you’re receiving at night. It may also be linked to certain diseases. A thorough check-up and a sleep study, if warranted, can benefit you tremendously.