With the holiday season in full swing and summer weather warming up, it’s tempting to reach for a crisp, icy beer or a celebratory glass of bubbly. Unfortunately, alcohol is a big contributor to snoring and sleep apnoea. Read on to find out how it works and how you can minimise its effects.
How It Works
Snoring occurs when the soft palate at the back of your throat hangs down in your sleep. It partially obstructs the airway and vibrates as the air is forced through the little space it has left. Snoring is worse when you sleep on your back because it allows the soft palate to hang down more than when you sleep on your side.
Alcohol relaxes the muscles in your jaw and your throat, which causes the soft palate to hang even more loosely into the airway. Even if you’ve had treatments to tighten the palate and reduce snoring, alcohol can make the palate more slack and cause you to snore again.
Alcohol also inflames the tissues in your sinuses, which contributes to snoring. When your sinuses are inflamed, less air can travel through, so you start to breathe through your mouth. Breathing through your mouth while you sleep changes the pressure behind your soft palate and contributes to snoring.
How to Minimise It
The best way to prevent alcohol from making you snore is to give it up altogether, but not everyone is willing to do that. If you are going to drink, we recommend some well-informed moderation.
Start a bit earlier, but be sure to finish early and stay hydrated. Drinking alcohol within four or five hours of your bedtime will make your snoring worse. If you expect to be in bed by 11pm, try to have your last drink by 6pm and then switch to something non-alcoholic and not too sugary. It’s important to rehydrate well before your bedtime.
If you pour water into a wine glass, or sparkling water into a champagne flute, it may not be the same as having a drink, but it feels a bit more special than a regular glass when you’re at a party.
This does not mean that you can drink heavily all day and then switch to water at 6pm. You should still only have moderate amounts. The more alcohol you drink, the longer it takes your body to process it, and the longer the effects will last. This includes relaxed muscles in your palate and inflammation of the sinuses.
How much alcohol constitutes “moderate” will depend on many factors, including your weight, height and muscle mass, but it’s generally good practice to have fewer than three standard drinks and avoid having a drink every day.
Alcohol is only one of the common contributors to snoring, but it’s an important one to keep under control, especially during the silly season. If you’d like to know more about lifestyle factors and treatments for snoring, come in for a consultation with one of our doctors or nurses.