Q. Why does a snorer wake everyone in the house but himself?
A. Because he’s grown used to the snoring, but his family hasn’t. Experts believe that snoring doesn’t develop overnight, like a sore throat or a blemish. “It evolves gradually, growing louder as the soft tissue in the throat becomes floppier over time,” says Raj Kakar, M.D., the medical director of the Dallas Center for Sleep Disorders, in Plano, Texas. “By the time a snore is booming enough to disrupt a bed partner—or even a child snoozing down the hall—the snorer has probably become accustomed to the noise.” His cacophonous honk is no more disturbing to him than are the crickets outside the window. In fact, he can hardly hear it. “The most persistent snoring usually occurs during the deepest sleep, when we are least likely to wake from sound,” says Nancy Collop, M.D., the president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, in Darien, Illinois. The reason: As you fall deeper into sleep, the tissue in the upper airway (the back of the throat) becomes progressively more relaxed, sometimes making it difficult for air to pass through. If you’re in stage-one sleep, which is a light doze, and the person on the next pillow cranks up a stage-four wheeze, there’s a good chance you’ll be roused.
Collop recommends “elbow therapy,” also known as nudging the snorer onto his side, where he’ll be able to breathe more easily. The jab might startle him, too, causing his throat muscles to tighten and the buzz-sawing to cease. (See more ways to stop snoring.)
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