Essentially snoring is noisy breathing during sleep caused by the exchange of a large volume of air through a narrowed space which in turn causes the tissues of the nose and throat to vibrate. Snoring is simply a sound that is created from turbulent airflow. It can affect any member of the family, regardless of size, from granny to toddler. An estimated 45% of men and 30% of women habitually snore. While most treatments are aimed at expanding the airways – nasal decongestants, nasal strips, surgery, dental appliances etc. – the goal of the Buteyko Method, developed almost half a century ago by Dr Konstantin Buteyko, is to unblock the nose and correct breathing volume to normal levels.
The question to ask is whether you would snore if your breathing is calm and quiet? Healthy non-snorers breathe quietly through their nose. Their sleep is deep, undisturbed and they wake up refreshed. Persons who breathe heavily during the night experience a wide array of symptoms such as snoring, sleep apnoea, disrupted sleep, insomnia, needing to visit the toilet during the night, waking up fatigued with a dry mouth and a possible blocked nose.
All snorers breathe heavily. The clinical term for overbreathing is chronic hyperventilation which simply means breathing a volume of air greater than bodily requirements. Breathing too much is a habit and can be recognised by mouth breathing, regular sighs or sniffing, audible breathing, upper chest breathing and visible breathing. Snorers will either snore through their mouth, their nose or both their nose and mouth. Mouth snoring is the easier of the two to address. It stops when one learns to breathe through their nose during sleep. I teach the Buteyko breathing technique all over the world and participants in our courses are encouraged to use paper tape placed across the mouth to ensure nasal breathing during sleep. While this may sound off the wall, you will be very surprised at how easy it is to do and even more surprised at the improvements it will make to your night’s sleep. You will find instruction below.
Nose snoring stops when one unblocks the nose and corrects breathing volume to normal levels. By learning how to unblock the nose, switching to nasal breathing and normalising breathing volume, breathing will be quiet, calm and still throughout the night and nasal snoring will cease. This can take a few weeks, depending on progress and control pause measurements.
Guidelines to stop snoring
• Practise Buteyko breathing for 15 minutes before bed.
• No food two hours before bed as food increases breathing.
• A cool bedroom is best (but not cold). It is better to have no central heating in a bedroom and to ensure that your duvet or bedclothes are not excessively warm. High temperatures increase breathing. In addition, an airy bedroom is best.
• Don’t sleep on your back. Instead sleep on your left hand side or tummy. Sleeping on the back is by far the worst position as we over-breathe when the chest is unrestricted. The left hand side is most preferred position as you breathe less.
In addition, a recent study published in the The American Journal of Gastroenterology concluded that heart burn is greatly reduced when one sleeps on the left side.
• Ensure that your mouth is closed at night. It is recommended that adults and older children wear paper tape (available at most chemists) to gently keep their lips together. A good brand is 3M and a suitable size is one inch. Apply it horizontally to cover your mouth. If you are unable to place it in a horizontal position, then place it vertically. Before applying, fold over a tab at either end of the tape to make removal easier in the morning. Wearing the tape at night is imperative to a good night’s sleep and will significantly improve your energy levels upon waking.
In fact, all the symptoms listed above will be helped by keeping your mouth closed at night. Taping the mouth is not suitable for children under five years. If you have drunk copious amounts of alcohol or are feeling nauseas, it is not recommended to wear the tape. It is possible that some people may, very reasonably, experience a feeling of panic at the very thought of having their mouth taped. To help overcome this, it may be helpful to put the tape on half an hour before going to bed. This should be enough time to become used to the tape and to overcome any nervousness. For the first few nights wearing the tape will feel a little strange.
It may come off during the night, but at least you will have spent some hours breathing through your nose. Continue to wear the tape until you have managed to change to breathing through your nose at night. How long this takes will vary with the individual.
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