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ASK THE EXPERT: Are there treatments for snoring?

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 Jigme Sethi, MD,
Chief of Pulmonary,
Critical Care and
Sleep Medicine
While asleep, snoring results from vibrations of the soft palate and upper airway tissues. This is most often in patients who are overweight, smoke, or have increased tissue in the nasal passages and upper airway. To reduce snoring, a person must stop smoking, lose weight, treat allergies that cause nasal congestion and strictly avoid items that relax the upper airway tissues.

Avoid sleeping pills, muscle relaxants, pain medications like Vicodin or Percocet, and above all, alcohol. Since snoring is often worst when sleeping on the back, a simple solution could be to sew a tennis ball into the back of your nightshirt to keep from sleeping on your back. If you snore and wake  up without feeling refreshed, are excessively sleepy during the day despite getting adequate (>7.5 hours) of sleep each night or periodically stop breathing as witnessed by a bed-partner, then you must see your physician. Your doctor will prescribe a sleep study (polysomnogram) to first rule out sleep apnea.

If loud snoring does not decrease with the simple measures described above and you do not have sleep apnea, then an otolaryngologic surgeon (ear, nose and throat doctor) could remove excessively large tonsils/ adenoids or nasal polyps, if these are causing the snoring. Other surgical measures include shortening or stiffening the soft palate with implants. Devices that fit in the mouth to reposition the lower jaw can reduce or eliminate snoring. These devices need to be custom-fitted and are expensive. An experimental nasal expiratory resistance device, which fits in the nostrils, effectively reduces snoring but may be uncomfortable. Finally, learning to play the didgeridoo, an Australian aboriginal musical wind instrument has been shown to reduce snoring!
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