If you’re overweight, you likely have been told that losing weight is the magic bullet that will solve all your health problems. Does this advice extend to snoring, too?
Yes, and sometimes no (thin people snore, too).
However, if you started snoring when you gained weight when previously you did not snore, weight loss may be just the cure you’re looking for, and it’s often the first suggestion doctors make because it can be a game-changer.
The reason is that fatty tissue and loose muscle tone around your neck contribute to snoring. So carrying excess weight around your neck minimizes the internal diameter of your throat when you sleep, making it more likely that you’ll snore.
As you lose weight, the thickness of your neck should subside, and so should your snoring.
How Much Weight Should I Lose to Stop Snoring?
Research shows that losing even a little weight — 5 to 8 pounds — can help alleviate (if not eliminate) snoring by reducing fatty tissue in the back of your throat.
In a study of obese men who snored heavily, a large reduction in snoring was noted with an average weight loss of 6.6 pounds. And those who lost an average of 16.7 pounds stopped snoring altogether. The caveat is that some of the men in the study who lost even more weight continued to snore, which means that other factors could be at play, such as a deviated septum.
In general, 10% body weight loss is helpful for most overweight snorers, but to determine how much weight loss is right for you, you should talk to a knowledgeable otolaryngologist such as Dr. Marc Kayem.
In addition to focusing on weight loss, research shows that exercise and avoiding certain foods can help mitigate snoring. For instance, avoid eating large meals or drinking dairy or soy milk close to bedtime.
Exercise can reduce snoring by toning muscles in your throat. There are even specific exercises you can do to strengthen those muscles.
Anti-snoring throat exercises
- Repeat each vowel (a-e-i-o-u) aloud for three minutes a few times a day.
- Place the tip of your tongue behind your top front teeth. Slide your tongue backward for a few minutes a day.
- Purse your lips with your mouth closed. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Open your mouth, move your jaw to the right and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the left side.
- Contract the muscle at the back of your throat repeatedly with your mouth open for 30 seconds.
- Sing — it can increase muscle control in the throat and soft palate, reducing snoring caused by slack muscles.
The Vicious Snoring-Weight Cycle
One thing to note is that losing weight while snoring can be a difficult proposition — especially if you have obstructive sleep apnea, which tends to exacerbate weight gain due to the poor quality of sleep you get at night.
- For starters, you burn fewer calories at night because your snoring is more likely to rouse you, leading to less time in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is where your body burns the most calories because it uses up glucose and energy to restore the body and produce dreams.
- Additionally, sleep disruption can mess with weight-regulation hunger hormones. The first is leptin, which helps you feel full after eating. The second is ghrelin, which makes you feel hungry. During deep sleep, you release more leptin. When you’re sleep-deprived, you release more ghrelin. So not getting into deep sleep will literally make you feel hungrier the next day.
- Interrupted nighttime sleep can lead to lethargy during the daytime, leading to less exercise.
- After getting poor rest, your body is tempted to grab high-calorie, sugary and fatty foods to get a quick burst of energy, which in turn frustrates weight-loss efforts. A study published in Nature Communications found that sleep-deprived adults craved hamburgers, pizza and doughnuts, but when they were well-rested they preferred strawberries, apples and carrots.
- Finally, sleep deprivation slows your metabolism as a safety measure to conserve food and energy. Of course, this is the opposite of what needs to happen for you to lose weight.
As you can see, sleep apnea and snoring can create a vicious cycle in which you sleep poorly if you’re overweight and you either gain weight or can’t lose weight because you sleep poorly.
To break this cycle, you may need a doctor such as Dr. Marc Kayem to determine whether you have sleep apnea and whether use of a treatment such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine could help you achieve longer, restorative sleep while you’re trying to lose weight.
Breaking the Snoring-Weight Cycle
The easiest way to tackle snoring and weight loss is to seek treatment from a knowledgeable otolaryngologist like Dr. Marc Kayem. Dr. Kayem has been fixing snoring and sinus issues for his patients for over two decades, giving him unparalleled experience.
Oftentimes a CPAP machine is the first line of defense in breaking the vicious cycle between weight gain and sleep apnea, as recommended by the American College of Physicians. Technology continues to advance to make CPAP masks more manageable and less bulky.
You can trust that Dr. Kayem will perform a thorough evaluation to determine the exact cause of your sleep apnea or snoring before suggesting a corrective procedure. Your anatomy and your health are unique, and Dr. Kayem will find the right solution for you.