Is Snoring Keeping You Awake?

by Monica Wilde
Research Herbalist

Unless you sleep alone, snoring can be a real problem as it may keep your partner awake. Sometimes snoring also wakes you up preventing a good night's sleep. Although there are no magic herbs that will instantly stop you snoring, there are herbs that can help to alleviate many of the causes. So looking at why you snore is a good start.
 

Snoring is noisy breathing through the mouth and nose while asleep. It happens when the air does not flow smoothly through the air passages. When you sleep deeply the muscles in your throat, tongue and roof of mouth relax and sag. This narrows the airways and causes them to vibrate. About 45% of the population snore from time to time and 25% are habitual snorers.
 

What causes snoring?

There are believed to be a number of factors which cause snoring – age, obesity, alcohol and certain drugs, sleeping on your back and structural reasons such as a longer than normal uvula, a low thick set palate or a deviated septum.

Being overweight is a very common cause of snoring and in this case herbs and diet can support the weight loss. Excess fat puts pressure on the lungs, throat, etc. and the noise of snoring is generated by the extra effort required by the body to maintain breathing.

Nasal congestion, which will force someone to breathe through his or her mouth, will also increase the likelihood of snoring.

Rarely snoring can indicate a more serious condition called sleep apnoea. This is interruption in breathing while asleep. When breathing stops the brain responds by waking a person up. This can happen several times a night and result in fatigue and an increased risk of more serious health problems.
 

What can help snoring?

Self-help advice for snorers includes trying to sleep on your side instead of your back, raising the head of the bed and avoiding alcohol before bed.

Weight: Losing weight helps to stop or lessen snoring. Sleeping on your side, so that excess weight is not pressing directly on your lungs and diaphragm, may also help. If you are overweight and a bad snorer, then getting support on a weight loss program will be an important part of relieving not just snoring but other health issues.

Nightcaps: Drinking alcohol in the evening can also contribute to snoring as it causes muscles to relax even more than normally. It also causes irritation and congestion in the nasal passages that in turn increase snoring. If you are addicted and can’t stop drinking try to at least have your last drink 4 hours before bedtime to try to reduce the likelihood of alcohol-related snoring.

Drugs: Sedatives such as sleeping tablets or those prescribed for depression can also relax your muscles more than normal and contribute to snoring. If you have been prescribed medication and have snored since,  or existing snoring has got worse, discuss this with your doctor.

Sinuses: Aside from being overweight, one of the biggest problems related to snoring is blocked sinuses. So advice given for sinusitis is also relevant for snoring. Herbs can help alleviate nasal congestion, reducing the production of catarrh, and tone the mucous membranes. 


Tackling blocked sinuses

Try cutting out dairy productsFirst, try cutting out dairy products for a while. Milk, cheese and other products congest the mucus membranes and this is often the culprit behind blocked sinuses.  Cut them out for 3 weeks and see if the breathing clears and the snoring lessens. If it does, see if it gets worse again once diary products are reintroduced again. For people who really love dairy try soy, almond or oat milk instead of cows milk and sheep or goats cheese instead of cows milk cheeses. Foods high in chilli, such as curries, conversely help sinuses by thinning and encouraging the flow of mucus.

If blocked sinuses are suspected, massaging the cheekbones, nose, forehead and temples around the sinuses with Napiers Sinus Rub can help to keep them clear. You can also massage the chest with Napiers Vaporese Oil or add a few drops of it to a stem inhalation to clear sinuses. Some people find that a neti-pot of saline solution which is squirted into the nose helps to keep them clear.

If sinuses are often blocked but cutting out dairy products makes no difference, you may need to look at other possible allergens. There are less well-known allergies, such as a sensitivity to sulphur that can play a part. Sulphur dioxide is found as a common food preservative, very common in dried fruits such as apricots, mango, etc and also in wine. So if your nose is often blocked the morning after you’ve had a few glasses of wine, then sulphur may be the cause.

Try drinking a herbal tea before bedtime to reduce nasal stuffiness. A combination of elderflowers and eyebright herbs is both tasty and useful. If you don’t want a full cup of tea add 5ml of tincture to a smaller glass of water. You could also add in plantain leaf which is a gentle expectorant. These can be found combined as tinctures in our Sinus Support food supplement. Stronger herbs include garlic, which thins mucus and tackles any mild infection, sage or oak leaf – both high in tannins - that helps to dry out sinuses and are used for thicker more severe catarrh in blends such as Catarrh Blend food supplement.

Ideally it is advisable to consult a herbalist if you have constantly blocked sinuses. Some people have also found acupuncture and hopi ear candling of some help with snoring but success depends very much on why you snore in the first place.

 

Other Articles

Self Help for Sinusitis by Zoe Naylor, MNIMH

Hay fever and Summer Allergies by Dee Atkinson, MNIMH

References

Banno, K., Walld, R., & Kryger, M.H. (2005). Increasing obesity trends in patients with sleep-related breathing referred to a sleep disorders centre. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 1(4), 364-6.

Braver, H.M., Block, J., & Perri, M.G. (1995). Treatment for snoring combined weight loss, sleeping on side and nasal spray. Chest. 107. 5: 1283-1288.

Dixon, J.B., Schachter, L.M., & O’Brien, P.E. (2001). Sleep disturbance and obesity: changes following surgically induces weight loss. Archives of Internal Medicine. 161(1), 102-6.

Kopelman, P.G. (1984). Clinical complications of obesity. Clinics in Endocrinology and Metabolism. 13(3), 613-34.

Levy, P., Pepin, J.L., Mayer, P., Wuyam, B., & Veale, D. (1996). Management of simple snoring, upper airway resistance syndrome and moderate sleep apnea syndrome. Sleep. 19 (9), S101-10.

Madani, M. (2007). Snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. Archives of Iranian Medicine. 10(2), 215-26.

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