September 05, 2022 3 min read
One thing we know about snoring is that almost everyone snores, at least occasionally. We also know that snoring tends to get worse as we grow older. Even surveys show that an estimated 20 to 30% of adults snore. They also show that snoring is less common in children, with an estimated prevalence rate of only 4%.
But you don’t need to be an expert to know that you’re more likely to snore later in life. What you may not know is why this is so. You may also wonder at what age you can expect snoring to become a regular occurrence.
Age affects many things, including how well you sleep. As you grow older, you may find yourself struggling to fall asleep and stay there. The quality and duration of your sleep also diminishes once you reach your 40s and beyond. So, it’s unsurprising that the propensity to snore also seems to increase with age.
The usual time people may notice this change, however, is around midlife (aged 44-64 years). But, this mostly applies to men, especially if they also smoke and drink alcohol. Women tend to snore more after age 50, and smoking and greater body-mass index seem to be contributing risk factors.
There are three main reasons people snore more in their senior years: weak muscles, weight gain, and medications.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, people tend to snore more with age because their throat and tongue muscles weaken. We tend to lose muscle mass at a rate of 1% per year after age 40. By your 80s and 90s (if you’re lucky enough to live that long), you may lose up to 50% of your peak muscle mass, which also applies to the muscles responsible for keeping your upper airways open.
Another reason snoring worsens with age is weight gain. With gradual loss of muscle mass, people become more prone to weight gain as muscle is an important metabolism regulator. Having more fat in your neck can narrow the upper airway, further increasing the risk of snoring.
And finally, taking certain medications (water pills, beta blockers, anxiolytics, sleeping pills, etc) — which is more common in older adults — can increase your chances of developing a snoring habit.
Snoring may be more common in older age, but it isn’t inevitable. Snoring can diminish the quality of your sleep and keep your bed partner awake. It may also be a symptom of a more serious disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Here are steps you can take to stop snoring:
Being overweight, smoking and alcohol are all major risk factors for snoring. Losing a small amount of weight (5%) and changing your habits may make a big difference in your sleep quality.
This exercise training program helps strengthen the muscles in your face, throat and tongue. It was found to be effective in reducing the severity of snoring and OSA in adults. A sleep specialist can teach you how to exercise your airways for better sleep.
Changing sleep position
If you sleep on your back, the back of your tongue and soft palate are more likely to fall back and obstruct your airway. Switching to a side sleeping position can prevent this and improve your breathing.
These medical devices are worn inside the mouth at night to help keep the upper airway open while you sleep. The Good Morning Snore Solution mouthpiece treats snoring and mild sleep apnea by preventing the tongue from falling back.
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