Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Why do people snore when they sleep on their back?"
My boyfriend sounds so loud when he sleeps on his back. I usually have to turn him over but then I have a hard time falling asleep. Should I put something on his back?
Snoring is a symptom of mechanical blockage of the airway. When you fall asleep, the muscles of your tongue and throat relax. If you are on your back, they "slump" backwards into your upper airway, partially blocking your air passages and leading to the loud vibrations we call snoring. This is why snoring is typically improved by sleeping on the side or stomach. Overweight individuals are at higher risk for snoring because of the deposition of fatty tissues in the neck, which narrows the airway and contributes to these loud vibrations. Things that you can do that will improve snoring include weight loss, side or stomach sleeping, and avoiding sedating medications or excessive alcohol intake. Although snoring has historically been thought of as benign, there is emerging evidence that it can also be a symptom of a syndrome known as the "obstructive sleep apnea syndrome." This syndrome is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and snoring, and is due to disruption of sleep from transient, brief complete blockage of the airway. Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome is associated with higher rates of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, and there are a number of therapies available that reduce the risk of these complications. If your boyfriend is having symptoms of poor concentration, excessive daytime sleepiness, nighttime choking, gasping, or smothering, you should seek a primary care doctor referral for a sleep apnea evaluation.
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