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Snoring: causes and prevention

Snoring is a breathing problem that deprives you of oxygen during sleep, causing people to wake up feeling tired. In 10 to 15 percent of cases, snoring can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a potentially dangerous medical condition in which breathing actually stops for 10 seconds to more than a minute, hundreds of times a night. This interruption in breathing lowers oxygen levels and raises carbon dioxide levels in the blood, a condition doctors call hypoxia.

What causes snoring?

Snoring can be caused by one factor or many, depending on the individual. It can be its own problem or indicate other medical conditions, some of them serious. The list of causes and aggravating factors is a lengthy one:

  • Narrowing of the upper air passages from an increase in size of throat tissues, such as large tonsils and adenoids
  • Enlarged or long uvula
  • Enlarged tongue
  • Increased neck size, especially in people who are overweight
  • Narrowed nasal passages, from allergies, infection, polyps or tumors
  • Deviated septum

Other causes and aggravating factors include obesity, poor muscle tone in the throat, fatigue, medication, alcohol consumption, smoking and sleeping on your back.

Ways to prevent snoring

There are several self-care steps to help a snoring problem. If these measures don't work, make an appointment with a doctor for an evaluation:

  • If you are overweight by 10% or more, try to lose weight
  • If you smoke, quit
  • Sleep on your side or stomach; sleeping on your back can worsen snoring
  • Do not eat a large meal or drink alcohol within three hours of bedtime
  • Be careful about using over-the-counter devices and medications to stop snoring unless advised to try one by your health care provider
  • Cut back on caffeine or eliminate completely

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