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Health Matters: Snoring

How to quiet a snoring roommate


Sanford Auerbach, an associate professor of neurology at the School of Medicine. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

The cartoon cliché may not be spot on, but snoring can sometimes sound like sawing logs. It’s a sound that can make sleep difficult for roommates of snorers and a sound that is surprisingly common. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, about half of all adults snore.

Sanford Auerbach, an associate professor of neurology at the School of Medicine, who studies sleep, explains that snoring occurs in most cases when air flows past relaxed tissue at the top of the throat, causing those tissues to vibrate. (In some more serious cases, Auerbach warns, snoring can be caused by sleep apnea, a condition that interrupts normal breathing and restarts it with a loud snort.)

Happily, says Auerbach, if you or your roommate snore, there are a few things that can be done to make nighttime in your dorm room a little quieter.

  1. If you are the snorer and if you are overweight, try to lose a few pounds. Being overweight contributes to bulky throat tissue, which can make snoring more likely. Also, says Auerbach, the exercise you do to lose weight will help you sleep better.
  2. Avoid alcohol, sleeping pills, and other drugs before you sleep. Many drugs act as depressants and increase muscle relaxation, which can encourage snoring.
  3. Change your body position when sleeping. The worst position is flat on your back, which relaxes the tongue and consequently restricts airflow, causing the tissue to vibrate.
  4. In Auerbach’s opinion, store-bought remedies such as Breathe Right Strips have only a marginal benefit.

If snoring is still a problem, Auerbach suggests a visit to an otolaryngologist. As a last resort, there are some simple outpatient surgery procedures that can help open your throat and reduce snoring.

Even if your snoring doesn’t bother your roommate, Auerbach says, it interrupts your sleep, and sleep interruptions mean you won’t function at your best when you wake up. If your roommate is the snorer, tell him or her (nicely), and hope he or she does the same for you.

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

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