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It’s the middle of the night and you’ve just been awakened by a loud noise. Either you were dreaming about being in a sawmill or your partner is snoring again. You turn over, cover your ears with the pillow, and try to get back to sleep. How can one person make so much noise?

When we sleep, our throat, tongue, and soft palate (tissue at the back of the roof of the mouth) relax. If they relax enough, it can narrow or even block the airway. As we breathe, the soft palate and uvula (a small piece of flesh that hangs from the back of the soft palate) vibrate and bump against the back of the throat. This causes the sound we call snoring.

There are some things that can help prevent snoring:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoid smoking
  • Avoid alcohol and medications that slow breathing (such as sedatives and tranquilizers)
  • Sleep on your side rather than on your back
  • Raise the head of your bed 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 in.) by putting blocks under the legs at the top of your bed (Raising your head on an extra pillow won’t work)

When to Call the Doctor

Sometimes, snoring can be a sign of a more serious problem such as sleep apnea (a condition in which breathing stops for brief periods during sleep). It’s time to consult a doctor if:

  • Your partner says you snore loudly and heavily
  • Your partner says you stop breathing, gasp, or choke during sleep
  • You snore and you feel sleepy during the day
  • You snore and fall asleep at inappropriate times (such as while you are talking or eating)

Your Sobeys Pharmacist is happy to answer any questions you have about snoring or sleep disorders.

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