Lots of factors can contribute to snoring, but if you are a snorer and you smoke, then that could certainly have an impact on your sleep breathing. In fact, people who smoke are more than twice as likely to have problems with snoring as people who do not smoke. Although people who have quit smoking may still be more likely to snore than people who have never smoked, the impact is certainly less than for the people who continue to smoke.
Smoking and Snoring
It only makes sense that the direct inhalation of smoke into the breathing passages and lungs can have a detrimental effect on breathing. Cigarettes, cigars, and pipe tobacco can all contribute to the narrowing of the nasal passages as well as post-nasal drip. Narrowed airways means that breathing becomes more difficult, and nighttime breathing can especially suffer—causing a rattling noise referred to as snoring.
Even if you don’t smoke but you live with or are around someone who does, you could be at risk for problems related to smoking and snoring. In recent years evidence has emerged that second hand smoke can also be dangerous, and non-smokers could also be snoring due to allergic reactions or blocked airways related to smoke inhalation.
How Smoking Makes You Snore
Cigarette smoke is irritating to the inside of your throat and nose, causing inflammation and buildup of mucus. When a person smokes, the actual smoke acts as an irritant to the mouth, throat, bronchial tubes, mucus membranes and other parts of the respiratory system. In general, smoking compromises the respiratory system’s ability to function well naturally.
Because the airway is rather small to start with, anything that causes irritation or swelling in the breathing passages can quickly turn into problems with restricted breathing. Restricted breathing leads to rattling and other noisy problems as the air comes through the breathing passages, which leads to snoring.
In addition to the irritation factor, smoking can also induce snoring for another reason. Smoking has a tendency to cause an increased amount of mucus in the body. When a person produces an excessive amount of mucus, it can take up space in the airways and result in tissue vibration during sleep breathing—which makes the snoring sound.
The risk of snoring can be directly associated with the amount a person smokes. So a casual smoker will be much less likely to snore than a person who chain smokes two packs per day. Even so, medical and scientific research shows that even the most minimal amount of smoking may be hazardous to the health and decrease life expectancy.
Smoking Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a sleep related breathing disorder that is related to snoring and can be very dangerous or even life threatening. When people with this condition go to sleep, their bodies periodically stop breathing and their brains must wake them up in order to get them breathing again. Decreased airflow is the cause of obstructive sleep apnea.
As smoking has a tendency to exacerbate struggles with congestion and breathing, it stands to reason that smoking would be a contributing factor to obstructive sleep apnea. Quitting smoking would be one of the first suggestions a doctor might make to a person who is diagnosed with sleep apnea.
Solutions for Snoring and Smoking
If you smoke then you’re probably aware of the myriad of reasons that it’s bad for you. Quitting smoking is a challenging process and may seem overwhelming, but adding snoring to the list of reasons to quit may just tip the scales enough to be motivating. Quitting smoking will not likely be a quick fix as it may take some time for your body to clear itself of the mucus and toxins, but be patient.
If you aren’t able to quit smoking, or maybe you have quit smoking but are still struggling with snoring, some options exist for helping you to stop snoring. Here are some of the ways you can try to stop snoring:
- Mouthpiece for Snoring. A tongue retaining mouthpiece can help to open up the breathing passages and keep the tongue from falling into the back of the throat when you are sleeping.
- Exercise. A bit of walking or jogging can help to tighten up loose muscles in the body, give your respiratory system a boost, and help decrease your propensity for snoring. Plus, being overweight by even just a few pounds can make snoring worse as the fatty tissue in the throat can restrict airways. Exercise and healthy eating can help you to reduce snoring severity or even stop it altogether.
- Anti-Inflammatory. Talk to your doctor about taking an anti-inflammatory medication to help keep your airways open. For a natural solution, try taking fish oil capsules, which are a natural anti-inflammatory.
- Decongestant and Expectorant. Many medicines used for colds are meant to reduce symptoms that are similar to those caused by smoking. Reducing congestion and allowing the body to get rid of mucus can help reduce snoring. These medicines, however, are only meant to be taken for a short period of time so talk to your doctor about the safety of using them to help with snoring while you quit smoking.
- Avoid Alcohol and Sedatives. Although they might make you think you’ll sleep better because they make you feel drowsy, the use of sedatives and alcohol is actually counterproductive to your sleep. These substances cause your throat and mouth muscles to be relaxed, exacerbating problems with snoring. Plus, you don’t sleep as deeply when you drink alcohol or use sedatives, so you’ll feel less rested during the day—making it more difficult to have the willpower to quit smoking.
- Nasal Strips. If congestion in your nose is the issue with your snoring, then adhesive nasal strips may help. Simply adhered to the outside of the nose, these nasal strips give you an added boost of breathing capacity through your nose while you sleep, which may help to cut down on problems with snoring.
While smoking certainly raises your risk for snoring, you don’t have to resign yourself to it! Lots of options exist to get yourself back to sleeping soundly. If you are a smoker who struggles with snoring, be sure to contact your doctor to get help, support, and the tools you need to quit smoking, quit snoring, and live a healthier, happier lifestyle.