Health risks: Snoring can lead to sleep apnea which can lead to problems such as high blood pressure, heart problems and sleeplessness. *Photo supplied
Health risks: Snoring can lead to sleep apnea which can lead to problems such as high blood pressure, heart problems and sleeplessness. *Photo supplied

People who snore are often the butt of jokes. The louder the snoring, the funnier it seems to be. However, snoring is no laughing matter as it can ultimately degenerate into a condition called sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can lead to other problems like high blood pressure, heart problems, sleeplessness and general irritability.

There are several things that can cause snoring but this time of year, seasonal allergic rhinitis is a potential culprit. More commonly known as hay fever, allergic rhinitis is when the membrane lining the throat and nose becomes inflamed and causes the airway to be blocked which can lead to snoring. 

Hay fever is usually caused by trees, grass or other plant pollen and it’s usually a problem in the spring and summer. If you suffer from it all year (known as perennial allergic rhinitis) it’s often due to dust, dust mites, mould spores or pet fur.

The symptoms of allergic rhinitis include:

  • itchy eyes and nose
  • sneezing
  • red, watery eyes
  • runny or plugged nose
  • headache
  • and of course, snoring.

If you haven’t been able to figure out what’s causing your hay fever, your doctor may give you a skin-prick test to determine exactly what is causing it. Even then, the cause is not always easy to determine so you may not be able to get rid of the cause.

In these cases, you’ll probably turn to some type of allergy medication. The problem with these medications in relation to snoring is that many of them contain antihistamines. Antihistamines are often effective at treating allergies, but they’re also a depressant. As such, they can lead to the muscles in your throat and neck becoming more relaxed than normal while you sleep. When these muscles relax, it can lead to more severe snoring than normal.

Nasal decongestant

If you’re suffering from allergies and are snoring at night, it’s best to avoid antihistamines before going to bed. If you need to use any medication, try to stick to a nasal decongestant, which can help your breathing while not contributing further to a snoring problem. Try a decongestant spray (like Otrivine or Afrin) rather than a tablet (like Sudafed). Decongestants, especially in tablet form, can keep you awake if taken too late at night. The spray will give the same relief without that unwanted side effect.

There are over-the-counter remedies that may provide temporary relief from symptoms of nasal congestion due to colds or allergies, and to help reduce or eliminate snoring. There are nasal strips, like Breathe Right, that physically open nasal passages as well as a line of Snoreeze products such as throat and nose sprays, and oral strips which are meant to lubricate the soft tissues at the back of the throat to provide effective snoring relief.

In addition to allergies, there are other reasons you may be snoring. 

Overweight people can have fatty tissue in their neck and throat which can put added pressure on your airways. This can constrict air flow and contribute to snoring.

Smoking cigarettes is another common cause of snoring. Smoking affects your breathing and air flow, which in turn can lead to snoring problems.

Alcohol is another contributing factor to snoring. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it can cause the muscles in your body — your neck in particular — to relax more than normal when you’re sleeping. This can lead to serious snoring.

As with any health concerns, if you suspect you suffer from allergies or have a snoring problem, always consult with a health care professional before you try any remedies to make sure you’re not suffering from sleep apnea and to ensure you get the treatment that’s best for you.

Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire.For helpful information, visit Lindo’s at www.lindos.bm