July 04, 2022 4 min read
Does it seem like your (or your spouse’s) snoring has gotten worse over the years? You’re definitely not alone in this. While snoring can happen at any age, it usually becomes common around midlife. As you get older, you may find your snoring is getting more chronic, loud, and disruptive.
But why is this so, and should you do anything about it? Aging leads to physical changes that can contribute to snoring, but that doesn't necessarily mean snoring is an inevitable part of growing old. In fact, untreated heavy snoring can disrupt your and your spouse’s sleep, as well as increase your risk of chronic health problems.
Once you reach a certain age — usually around your 40s — your propensity for snoring increases. Case in point: half of all adults 60 and older snore, while only about 11% of high school students say they habitually snore, according to research. There are a couple of reasons for this change:
After age 30, muscle mass decreases at a rate of 3-8% per decade. This loss can also affect upper airway dilator muscles, which are responsible for keeping your airway open during sleep.
Being overweight is a known risk factor for snoring. That’s because having excess fat in the neck, chest, and abdomen can compress the upper and lower airways, making breathing while you sleep more difficult.
Men are more likely to snore than women, but that changes after menopause. One reason for this could be because lower estrogen levels lead to weight gain in the upper body in post-menopausal women, thus making snoring more likely.
As people grow old, they’re more likely to experience health problems, some of which can contribute to snoring. Conditions that can put you at risk of snoring include obesity, diabetes, and hypothyroidism. The use of sedatives can also worsen snoring.
Almost everyone snores at least occasionally, and most snoring is nothing to worry about. Heavy and habitual snoring, however, can disturb others’ sleep and be a warning sign of sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder that can cause serious health problems, including hypertension, stroke, and dementia.
Sleep apnea is characterized by long pauses in breathing followed by gasping and choking sounds. These episodes — which can repeat 30 or more times per hour — can lead to significantly disrupted sleep, even though sufferers usually aren’t aware this is happening.
If your snoring is accompanied by morning headaches, daytime sleepiness, and trouble focusing, it’s time to see a sleep specialist to diagnose and rule out sleep apnea.
But even if your loud snoring isn’t accompanied by pauses in breathing, it should still be treated. Some studies have found a link between non-apneic snoring and later sleep apnea, as well as atherosclerosis.
Snoring isn’t something that’s beyond your control, despite being involuntary. There are many steps you could take to stop your snoring habit for the sake of your health and the sanity of everyone in your proximity. Here’s what to do if your snoring has gotten worse over the years:
Lose weight if overweight
Losing a moderate amount of weight if you’re overweight may be enough to stop your snoring according to studies. One follow-up study of a 1-year trial found that moderate but sustained weight loss stopped sleep apnea from getting worse and even cured mild cases of the disease.
Try side sleeping
Back sleepers are more likely to snore than side sleepers. That’s because sleeping on your back makes it easier for your tongue and soft palate to collapse and block airflow. Try training yourself to sleep on your side. Use supportive pillows and switch to a medium-firm mattress, if needed.
Avoid sedatives before bed
Anxiety medications, opioids, sleeping pills, and alcohol all cause sedation, which can relax your throat muscles and worsen snoring. Avoid anxiety medications and alcohol before bed, and if you’re suffering from insomnia, try alternatives to sleeping pills.
Being physically active is essential for maintaining good muscle mass and tone. If you’re otherwise sedentary, moderate aerobic exercise four times a week can be enough to reduce your snoring frequency according to one randomized control trial published in a 2011 issue ofSleep.
Use oral appliances
Oral appliances like theGood Morning Sore Solution Mouthpiece stop snoring instantly by keeping the upper airway open. Many patients with mild sleep apnea can’t tolerate CPAP machines, while those with primary snoring need alternatives to get restful sleep. If that’s you, oral appliances can help as well.
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