When to Seek Medical Care for Snoring
If you or someone close to you is not sleeping well because of snoring or sleep apnea, visiting your doctor may be helpful. This should be by appointment, because these are not emergency cases and sometimes extra time is scheduled for the evaluation.
A doctor's visit may be particularly important if you are doing any of the following:
- Falling asleep during normal waking hours
- Becoming irritable
- Losing concentration
- Becoming depressed
Exams and Tests for Snoring
A doctor will complete a general physical examination, paying particular attention to your nose and throat.
- Your weight and blood pressure will be evaluated. If other clinical conditions are present, your blood may be tested to rule out thyroid dysfunction.
- An otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor) can look into your airway with a fiberoptic device to see if the nasal passages are open or partially blocked (septal deviation) or if there are any masses (tumors) present in your nose, throat, or upper airway that may be causing the snoring.
- For severe cases, you may be referred for a sleep laboratory test. This overnight test monitors up to 16 different bodily functions while you sleep. Home sleep apnea tests are available from many sleep centers and allow many patients to be tested in their own sleep environment. The results of these tests can help define the level and severity of sleep apnea if it is present.
Treatment for snoring can be as simple as changing sleeping positions or losing a few pounds. Other cases may require treatment for sleep apnea such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or even surgery. Sometimes, a doctor may prescribe an inhaled steroid if snoring is traced to swelling of the nasal lining.
Home Remedies for Snoring
Many remedies are available over-the-counter in drug stores, but most do not help correct snoring or sleep apnea.
- Because you tend to snore more when sleeping on your back, one useful technique is to try to keep from sleeping in that position. One way is to wear a pocket T-shirt backward with a tennis ball in the pocket. You will be less likely to sleep on your back because it is very uncomfortable to sleep on a tennis ball.
- Try losing some weight. As little as 10 pounds might make the difference.
- Avoid alcohol, especially in the 4 hours before going to sleep.
- Avoid using sedatives and narcotic medications. Alcohol, sedatives, and narcotics cause relaxation of your throat muscles and increase the tendency for airway obstruction related to snoring.
- Snoring may be more common after 1 or more days of sleep deprivation, so getting regular sleep is better.
Snoring Medical Treatment
For mild forms of snoring caused by swelling of the lining of your nose, a doctor may prescribe an inhaled steroid preparation.
For more severe forms of sleep apnea, surgical procedures or continuous positive airway pressure may be tried:
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
- CPAP is a device that includes a mask that fits snugly over your nose and mouth and is held in place with head straps. The mask is connected to a blower that generates pressurized air. You wear it while sleeping.
- The controlled pressure works as an air splint to keep the soft tissue of the nose and throat in place and the airway open.
- This noninvasive therapy works for 95% of people with sleep apnea.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/1/2016
G Richard Braen, MD, FACEP
Steven C Gabaeff, MD, FAAEM
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
Thomas Rebbecchi, MD, FAAEM
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