Tips and treatments for snoring seniors

Published 3:18 pm Friday, March 26, 2010

Dear Savvy Senior

My 60-year-old husband has become a terrible snorer, especially over the past few years. Its gotten to the point I cant stand to sleep in the same room as him anymore. What can help us?

Sleepless Sandy

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Dear Sleepless,

Most people dont think theres much they can do to fix their snoring problems, but thats not true anymore. Today, there are number of viable tips and treatments that can make a big difference for snorers and their suffering spouses. Heres what you should know.

Snoring is very common. If fact, its estimated that nearly half of all adults in the U.S. snore at least occasionally, and 25 percent snore habitually. But men are the ones who tend to be loud problem snorers, as well as people who are overweight. And snoring often gets worse with age.&bsp; &bsp;

Self-help remedies

While theres no sure-fire cure for snoring, there are a variety of things your husband can try to help reduce or eliminate the problem, including:

Slim down. If hes overweight, a 10 percent loss of body weight can help open up his airway and reduce snoring.

Stop smoking. If your husbands a smoker, quitting will help. Smoking causes inflammation in the upper airways that can make snoring worse.

Avoid alcohol and sedatives. Sleeping pills, painkillers, tranquilizers and alcoholic beverages all relax the muscles in the throat which makes snoring more likely. He should avoid all of these three to four hours before bed time.

Change sleeping positions. Snoring is more common when you sleep on your back. To prevent this, sew a tennis ball in the back of a T-shirt or his pajama top. This will make sleeping on his back uncomfortable and teach him to sleep in a more breathing friendly side position. Or, buy a snoring pillow thats designed to promote side sleeping. The Sona Pillow ( and Sleepright Side Pillow ( are two popular brands.

Tilt the bed. Raising the head of the bed by four inches can also help reduce snoring by helping him breath easier. He can do this by placing some bricks or boards under the headboard legs, or purchase some inexpensive bed raisers. Or insert a foam wedge under the head of the mattress. &bsp;

Clear nasal passages. If nasal congestion is causing your husband to snore, nasal strips such as Breathe Right may help, or if allergies are the cause, try steroid or saline nasal sprays. Antihistamines can help with allergies, but can worsen snoring. Also consider purchasing a humidifier for the bedroom. This can help to reduce congestion and moisturize the throat.

When to see a doctor

Loud snoring can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (see, a serious condition in which the snorer stops breathing many times a night. Left untreated, it can cause high blood pressure and can sharply increase the risk for stroke and heart attack.

If your husband is frequently sleepy during the day, stops breathing during sleep, or snorts awake, gasping for breath, then its time to see an otolaryngologist or a sleep specialist who may recommend an overnight study at a sleep center ( And even if he doesnt have these symptoms, these types of doctors can help ease his snoring if the other remedies have failed.

A common treatment for sleep apnea and severe snoring is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device. This involves sleeping with a snorkel-like mask thats hooked up to a machine that gently blows air up your nose to keep the passages open.

Other treatment options include an oral appliance that fits into the mouth over the teeth like a removable mouth guard or retainer. And the new Provent therapy (, which are small nasal devices that attach over the nostrils to improve airflow and breathing.

If these dont work, surgery is an option too. There are several procedures that are offered today that can help including the new minimally invasive pillar palatal implant that has a 75 percent success rate.&bsp; &bsp;

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of The Savvy Senior book.