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Senior Correspondent

Q: Is it my imagination or does my husband’s snoring get worse if he’s been drinking?

A: I’d have to listen to his snoring to give you an answer to that one. But I can tell you that drinking can intensify snoring.

As you fall asleep, your tongue, throat and the roof of your mouth relax. If they relax too much, they may partially block the flow of air to your lungs. This causes the tissue at the back of your mouth to vibrate, creating the sound of logs being sawed. As the airway narrows, the vibration intensifies and the snoring gets louder.

Alcohol relaxes throat muscles, so it promotes snoring. If you want to avoid snoring, you should stop drinking alcohol at least four hours before bedtime.

Here are some other possible causes of snoring:

  • A soft palate that is long and low restricts the opening from the nose into the throat. That triangular thingy hanging in the back of the palate is called a uvula. If your uvula is long, that creates wood-sawing, too.
  • Overweight people have bulky neck tissue. Extra bulk in the throat narrows your airway.
  • A stuffy nose or one that is blocked by a crooked partition (deviated septum) between the nostrils requires extra effort to pull air through it. This creates an exaggerated vacuum in the throat, and pulls throat tissues together.
  • Very loud snoring may also be associated with obstructive sleep apnea, a serious condition. When you have sleep apnea, your throat tissues obstruct your airway, preventing you from breathing. Heavy snorers should seek medical advice to ensure that they don’t have sleep apnea.
  • About one quarter of adults snore regularly. Almost half of normal adults snore occasionally. Typically, men are more prone to snoring than women. Also, snoring usually gets worse as we age.

Here are some ways to counteract mild or occasional snoring:

  • Sleep on your side. Lying on your back allows your tongue to drop into your throat where it can cause snoring.
  • Tilt the head of your bed up four inches.
  • Mouth-breathing during sleep can lead to snoring, so make sure your nasal passages are clear. If you have chronic nasal congestion, ask your doctor about prescription nasal sprays.
  • Avoid alcohol, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and antihistamines before bedtime.
  • Lose weight
  • Correct a deviated septum with surgery.
  • Place adhesive strips on your nose. They can open your nasal passages and make breathing easier.
  • There are more than 300 devices designed to cure snoring. Try a few out. Some of them work by keeping you off your back. A few stop you from snoring by waking you.

And here are some treatments for snoring:

  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (luckily, it has an acronym: UPPP) is surgery to tighten palate and throat tissue.
  • Laser Assisted Uvula Palatoplasty (LAUP) vaporizes the uvula and part of the palate.
  • Radiofrequency ablation employs a needle electrode to emit energy to shrink excess tissue.
  • Oral appliances are dental mouthpieces that help advance the position of your tongue and soft palate to keep your air passage open.
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) involves wearing a mask over your nose. The mask is attached to a small pump that forces air through your airway, which keeps it open.


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