Our resident pharmacist, Boitumelo Ntsoane, gives us advice about one of the most common health conditions: snoring. And she suggests how to deal with it.

Ever heard people say you kept us awake all night? You sound like a pig snorting away in the night or, even worse, people refusing to sleep in same room as you because you are so loud. Well that is snoring for you. Snoring is a snorting or grunting sound people make unconsciously when they are asleep. There are thousands causes of snoring, ranging from serious conditions to a mere issue of everyday aging. 

The most common cause of snoring is due to air being unable to move freely in the nose or throat due to blockage or obstruction. The snoring effect is caused by vibrating tissues within the airways of the nose or throat, due to the obstructions in the airflow through narrowed airways.

But this is not the only cause for snoring as there are a lot of other factors that contribute to a person snoring. People who don’t normally snore are usually victims of these other factors, which may include nasal congestion where things like allergies, sinus infections, nasal polyps or even something as simple as a blocked nose from a cold, these conditions will lead to obstruction of the airways which will cause snoring. 

But these causes are not all simple especially for constant snoring victims. A simple thing as a person’s sleeping direction can affect the airways in the throat and nose, as much as most people don’t realize that the way they sleep has huge impact on their body. Sleeping flat on your back causes the flesh of your throat to relax and block the airway. Sleeping on your side is always the perfect alternative. 

We always hear people say with age comes great responsibility, well one of those burdens include snoring. Age has a huge impact on snoring. As a person becomes older their throat starts to narrow causing the muscle tone in your throat to decrease but since there is not much a person can do about growing old you could try improve your daily lifestyle and a few throat exercises like repeating each vowel (a-e-i-o-u) out loud for at least three minutes a few times a day, placing the tip of your tongue behind your top front teeth, sliding your tongue backwards for three minutes a day or closing your mouth and purse your lips and hold for 30 seconds. Honey or a glass of warm water can help to keep your throat open. 

Obesity has been known to be one of the biggest reasons for death due to cardiovascular diseases but that is not the only thing obesity causes. Overweight individuals are more prone to experience snoring because the extra fat causes the neck to be thicker with poor muscle tone which causes blockage in the airway. There is a simple solution to this which is just maintaining your weight by regularly exercising and keeping a healthy lifestyle which may decrease the extra tissue and pressure on the neck. Eating healthy may also help and also avoiding eating large meals or foods such as dairy or soy milk right before bedtime as it can worsen the snoring. 

The anatomy and built of an individual may also cause snoring, men are prone to snoring due to their narrow airways in the throat – since a person can’t change their gender they can focus on improving their daily lifestyle. Genetic and hereditary disorders also cause a change in the physiology of a person’s body like a cleft palate or enlarged adenoids which narrow the throat causing obstruction.

Alcohol consumption leads to throat muscle relaxing decreasing the body’s natural defense against airway obstructions especially if partaken before bedtime. Avoid drinking alcohol at least two hours before you go to sleep and constantly getting drunk regularly.

Smoking is known to cause breathing problems in individuals –  this is one of the reasons why smokers experience snoring.

Smoking also irritates the membranes in the nose and throat which can cause airway blockage leading to snoring. Even though quitting is easier said than done, it can bring a quick snoring solution. 

As much as snoring can be due to simple uncomplicated things it is always important to rule out the serious causes. Sleep apnea is one of those. Sleep apnea is a serious sleeping disorder whereby an individual’s breathing is disturbed many times each night, it is known to cause intense periods of gasping and moments of choking which causes the individual to randomly wake up to catch their breath. Their breathing becomes shallow and consists of abnormal pauses with extremely loud snoring. This can easily be treated with airway pressure devices, oral appliances that are made to keep throat open or even surgical solutions where certain tissue is removed, jaw repositioning and implants.

People do not have to live with the embarrassment of irritating their sleeping partners or families with their snoring, there are a lot of solutions to this problem. In modern times, suffering in silence is never an option.

Find the best solution for yourself!


Boitumelo Ntsoane is the Managing Director of Onpoint Healthcare in Pretoria. She’s on boitumelo@onpointhealthcare.co.za