Ms. Terrie is a clinical pharmacy writer based in Haymarket, Va.
There was a time when snoring was considered nothing more than a bother that kept others up all night. Studies have shown, however, that snoring can progress to upper respiratory conditions and sleep apnea. Because of this, it is important for people who snore routinely to visit their health care provider.1 It is estimated that nearly 45% of all men and 30% of all women in the United States are routine or habitual snorers.2 Snoring is a very prevalent condition that not only disturbs the sleep of others, but may also interrupt the sleep patterns of the affected individual. Snoring results when airflow from the nose or mouth to the lungs is disturbed during sleep.1 This may be the result of a blockage or narrowing in the nose, mouth, or throat (airway), and these factors may cause the tissues of the airway to vibrate and tap or knock against the back of the throat, resulting in a noise that can be relatively quiet or very loud and raspy.1 In addition, the adenoids and the tonsils may vibrate, and the narrower the airways, the more vibration occurs?thus the louder the snoring will be.1 Snoring is often considered bothersome, but it may also be indicative of a more serious disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea.1,3There are various possible causes or factors that may contribute to an increased incidence of snoring:1,3,4Having a deviated septum, nasal polyps, or enlarged tonsils and adenoidsAge?snoring is most common in middle-aged people, especially men. One study showed that among men, the risk of snoring increases until 50 to 60 years of age, then decreases.Being overweight?excess weight can narrow the airway and possibly cause snoringExcessive alcohol use before bedtime?alcohol may relax throat muscles, thus causing snoringHistory of smoking, especially in menChronic nasal congestion due to colds and allergies (narrows airways)Pregnancy?some studies have shown that snoring may occur during late pregnancyOTC ProductsVarious OTC products available for reducing the incidence of snoring include drug-free nasal dilator strips such as Breathe Right Nasal Strips (GlaxoSmithKline) that open up the nasal passages. In addition to the nasal strips, throat rinses and sprays are available. These formulations lubricate the tissues of the throat?which minimizes vibrations, therefore eliminating or reducing the incidence of snoring. Individuals who exhibit symptoms of sleep apnea should always consult a physician for further evaluation and appropriate treatment.Nonpharmacologic MeasuresIndividuals who suffer from mild-to-moderate episodes of snoring may benefit from the incorporation of nonpharmacologic methods. Examples include weight loss, cessation of smoking, changing sleeping positions (ie, sleeping on one?s side instead of one?s back), avoiding the use of alcohol before bedtime, and treating nasal congestion due to colds and allergies to increase airflow.ConclusionPrior to recommending any OTC antisnoring products, pharmacists should ensure that the use of these products is appropriate and counsel patients on the correct use of these products. Patients are to seek medical care if the degree and frequency of snoring are severe. Examples of key signs of when an individual should seek medical advice include the following1,2:If snoring occurs every night and is loud and disruptiveIf the patient has experienced any episodes of sleep apneaIf the patient complains of difficulty waking or experiences fatigue during the dayIf the patient has difficulty concentrating or falls asleep during normal waking hours and/or at inappropriate times, such as while talking or eating.
For more information, visit the following Web sites:
American Sleep Apnea AssociationNational Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Sleep Apnea Information PageNational Sleep FoundationReferences
1. Snoring. WebMD Web site. Available at: http://my.webmd.com/hw/sleep_disorders/ug2415.asp.
2. Snoring. Medicine Net Web site. Available at: www.medicinenet.com/snoring/article.htm.
3. Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders Co; 2005.
4. Snoring. Mayo Clinic Web site. Available at: www.mayoclinic.com/health/snoring/DS00297/DSECTION=1.