For many, New Years is a time of transformation, an inspiration to make change and an opportunity to turn over a new leaf. All too often, though, New Years’ resolutions centre around losing the weight gained over Christmas. We propose a resolution to manage your snoring and prioritise sleep, which may actually help you reach your New Years’ fitness goals.
Snoring affects your breathing and your quality of sleep. A recent study published in the journal SLEEP estimated that inadequate sleep costs Australian businesses $45 billion per year. Lack of sleep is also related to weight gain, and weight gain in turn contributes to snoring.
Snoring and Weight Gain
Snoring is caused by the soft palate at the back of your throat hanging down and obstructing the airway. As air is forced through the narrow passageway, the soft palate vibrates and creates a snoring sound.
Extra bodily weight, especially around the neck, can put pressure on your throat and make the air passageway tighter and narrower. We often find that overweight patients who lose a reasonable, healthy amount of weight reduce their snoring and have better results with snoring treatments.
The snoring/bodyweight relationship works both ways. As we gain weight, our snoring often becomes more severe. As our snoring becomes more severe, we gain weight. There is some research on this phenomenon and a few theories behind it.
Most evident, perhaps, is the theory that lack of sleep affects your food choices. When you’re tired, you tend to eat more food and make poorer food choices because we all crave the energy boost that comes from fatty, sugary snacks.
Another theory has to do with the hormones ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin stimulates hunger and leptin is released to let you know that you are full. Sleep deprivation increases ghrelin levels and decreases your leptin, so when you’re tired, you’re more prone to overeating.
A healthy weight can mean less snoring, less snoring means better quality of sleep and better sleep helps you maintain your weight.
Alcohol and Snoring
There is also a relationship between alcohol and snoring. As discussed above, snoring occurs when the soft palate hangs down into your throat and obstructs the airway. Alcohol causes the muscles in the back of your throat to relax even more, which makes the obstruction in the airway worse, so your snoring may be louder and more disruptive to your quality of sleep.
Alcohol also causes inflammation in the nasal passageway, which obstructs airflow and contributes to snoring and poor sleep quality as well.
You don’t have to give up alcohol entirely, but if you want to manage your snoring and your weight, you should learn to drink in measured moderation.
When considering treatments for snoring, it’s important to discuss the nature of your snoring with a health professional.
Some patients find that lifestyle changes or prescription nasal sprays are effective. Other techniques may involve a wearable device that trains you to sleep on your side by vibrating whenever you roll onto your back in your sleep.
Patients with more severe snoring and sleep apnoea may require a stronger approach. These patients may have to sleep with a CPAP machine over their nose and mouth to aid the flow of air.
There are laser treatments for snoring that stimulate the collagen-building cells in the soft palate at the back of your throat. Collagen fibres weaken with age. The body’s ability to regenerate collagen decreases with age as well. Skin and other tissues become more lax and begin to sag as collagen wanes. This includes the soft palate at the back of the throat which hangs down more loosely as the collagen ages. This is why snoring can become more severe as you get older.
Laser treatments stimulate a healing response in the collagen in the soft palate tissues. As the collagen rebuilds itself, the soft palate regains its youthful strength and doesn’t hang down into the throat as much as before.
At Specialist Clinics of Australia we’ve developed a SleepTight program for snoring that involves a combination of laser treatments, lifestyle adjustments and tracking and management of your sleep data. We’ve delivered 4478 treatments with a 96% success rate for patients who comply with the program1.
Nurse Jenny Matheson, who specialises in snoring at Specialist Clinics of Australia, has seen a lot of damages to personal health and relationships caused by long term snoring. Most commonly, she says, snoring affects your partners’ ability to get a good night’s sleep. Quite often, fatigue puts a strain on the relationship, or partners end up sleeping in separate rooms and losing their intimacy.
By resolving to manage your snoring this New Year, you can help your health, your relationship and your other New Year’s goals.