I have a friend whose boyfriend snores like a friggin' lumberyard, and this friend has to spend a fair amount of time sleeping on the couch if she wants to get any sleep at all. It's totally unfair, because she winds up with a sore neck and back problems that make her cranky.
My friend tries really hard to be patient and understanding, but sometimes she wants to smother her boyfriend with a pillow or stick sharp objects up his nose.
Snoring and disturbed sleep are an issue in many relationships, but murderous instincts aside, snoring may lead to sleep apnea, an extremely common condition that can cause all kinds of scary problems like cardiovascular disease, memory lapses, impotency and headaches.
Basically, it means you stop breathing while asleep. In rare cases it's fatal. Studies have shown that children who snore are more likely to have ADHD or a learning deficit.
This is totally understandable: their blood oxygen levels are low and they're tired. Even scarier research shows that the lack of oxygen to little brains may cause damage that slows mental and physical growth.
Get it fixed.
This is good advice if you snore, too for your sake and the sake of those you love.
What the experts say
"Anatomical problems could include a deviated septum or a cold or allergies. Avoid alcohol for about four hours before sleep. Sleeping pills or calming agents can relax muscles and worsen the problem. High blood pressure is connected with sleep apnea, so people with snoring problems should be checked for that. We're not sure which comes first. Also they should be checked for hypothyroid conditions. Homeopathic combinations called Snore Stop and Y-Snore work best. There are also herbal gargles containing sage or raspberry leaf . If these things don't work, I refer people to a sleep clinic."
COLLEEN LEO , naturopath, pharmacologist, Toronto
"Anything that makes your airway small can predispose you to snoring. Some people have a smaller airway than others. Excess weight is a problem because overweight people have heavier necks. People with big or swollen tonsils or receding chins will snore. Options for apnea include losing weight . If it's an obvious anatomical problem like a tonsil thing or a broken nose, that would need fixing first. A machine that helps breathing is most effective. You can have surgery to make the airway bigger, but it often doesn't work. There's also a mask that fits over the nose and keeps the airway open. Typically, nasal strips don't work. They go on the outside of your nose, and that's not where the problem is.'
RICHARD L. HORNER , associate professor, medicine and physiology, University of Toronto
"In Chinese medicine, snoring is seen as a malfunction of the digestive system. Spleen dampness lodges in the lungs. A sluggish digestive system produces phlegm. Being overweight is a problem. Acupuncture can help with digestion. Also, don't consume anything that slows down digestion like drinking water or cold drinks with meals. Enzymes in your stomach need food to be at body temperature and at a certain PH level. You don't want too much water diluting things. That's why the Chinese drink tea in small cups -- so they don't drink too much, and it's hot. Better to drink a glass of wine with your meal as opposed to beer. Snorers can also use a big body pillow that forces them to sleep on their side.'
KALEB MONTGOMERY , practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, Toronto
"Assuming that the person who snores has done what he or she can to try to alleviate it, the options for the partner who doesn't snore are going to bed earlier , sleeping in another room or ending the relationship. [He's kind of kidding]. When people's sleep is disturbed, they get cranky and irritable and are unable to handle demands. Earplugs work sometimes. Another option is to give [the snorer] a good kick or elbow so he or she shifts position enough to stop, at least for a while. The snorer really has to take ownership. The best way to raise the topic is in terms of one's own needs as opposed to just dumping it on the other person."
DOUG SAUNDERS , clinical psychologist, Clear Path Solutions, president, Ontario Psychological Association, Toronto
"You can make an aromatherapy diffuser for the air with volatile essential oils such as rosemary , eucalyptus , lavender , marjoram , clove and lemon balm . An herbalist can give you a proper combination. Those have a physiological effect on the respiratory tract, and benefits from using these oils in steam inhalation have been documented.'
CELINA AINSWORTH , herbalist, Toronto