2010-03-31 / Seniors

Tips And Treatments For Snoring Seniors

Dear Savvy Senior,

My 60-year-old husband has become a terrible snorer, especially over the past few years. It’s gotten to the point I can’t stand to sleep in the same room as him anymore. What can help us?

Sleepless Sandy

Dear Sandy:

Most people don’t think there’s much they can do to fix their snoring problems, but that’s no longer true. Today, there are a number of viable tips and treatments that can make a big difference for snorers and their suffering spouses. Here’s what you should know.

Snoring is very common. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly half of all adults in the U.S. snore at least occasionally, and 25 percent snore habitually. Men are the ones who tend to be loud problem snorers, as well as people who are overweight–– and snoring often gets worse with age.

Self-Help Remedies

While there’s no sure-fire cure for snoring, there are a variety of things your husband can try to help reduce or eliminate the problem, including:

Slim down. If he’s overweight, a 10 percent loss of body weight can help open up his airway and reduce snoring.

Stop smoking. If your husband is a smoker, quitting will help. Smoking causes inflammation in the upper airways that can make snoring worse.

Avoid alcohol and sedatives. Sleeping pills, painkillers, tranquilizers and alcoholic beverages all relax the muscles in the throat and make snoring more likely. He should avoid all of these, beginning three to four hours before bedtime.

Change sleeping positions. Snoring is more common when you sleep on your back. To prevent this, sew a tennis ball in the back of a tee-shirt or his pajama top. This will make sleeping on his back uncomfortable and teach him to sleep in a more breathing-friendly side position. You can also buy a snoring pillow that’s designed to promote side sleeping. The Sona Pillow (SonaPillow.com) and Sleepright Side Pillow (Amazon.com) are two popular brands.

Tilt the bed. Raising the head of the bed by four inches can also help reduce snoring by helping him breathe easier. He can do this by placing some bricks or boards under the headboard legs, purchasing some inexpensive bed raisers or inserting a foam wedge under the head of the mattress.

Clear nasal passages. If nasal congestion is causing your husband to snore, nasal strips such as Breathe Right may help. If allergies are the cause, try steroid or saline nasal sprays. Antihistamines can help with allergies, but can worsen snoring. Also, consider purchasing a humidifier for the bedroom. This can help to reduce congestion and moisturize the throat.

• When to See a Doctor

Loud snoring can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (see SleepApnea.org), a serious condition in which the snorer stops breathing many times a night. Left untreated, it can cause high blood pressure and can sharply increase the risk of stroke and heart attack.

If your husband is frequently sleepy during the day, stops breathing during sleep or snorts awake, gasping for breath, then it’s time to see an otolaryngologist or a sleep specialist, who may recommend an overnight study at a sleep center (SleepCenters.org). Even if he doesn’t have these symptoms, these types of doctors can help ease his snoring if the other remedies have failed.

A common treatment for sleep apnea and severe snoring is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device. This involves sleeping with a snorkel-like mask that’s hooked up to a machine that gently blows air up the nose to keep the passages open.

Other treatment options include an oral appliance that fits into the mouth over the teeth like a removable mouth guard or retainer and the new Provent therapy (ProventTherapy.com), small nasal devices that attach over the nostrils to improve airflow and breathing.

If these don’t work, surgery is an option too. There are several procedures that are offered today that can help, including the new, minimally invasive pillar palatal implant that has a 75 percent success rate.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to “The NBC Today Show” and author of The Savvy Senior books.

The Gazette does not endorse the contents of The Savvy Senior. Check with professionals about the contents of this column.

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