Are You a Seasonal Snorer?

You may have noticed that your snoring gets worse at a particular time of year. If so, you could be a “seasonal snorer”.

Whether it’s a summertime allergy, a winter cold or changes in the weather, there’s plenty of reasons why you may be putting SnoreLab through its paces in January but scoring single digits in July.

Allergies

A leading cause of seasonal snoring is allergies, particularly dust allergies or the pollen allergy better known as hay fever. This is where your body launches into infection-fighting mode in reaction to harmless things.

As allergens get into the body mainly through the nose, this is the area that is most affected. Increased blood flow and release of inflammatory molecules makes your nose stuffy and forces you into noisier mouth breathing.

Allergy-related snoring isn’t just a summertime phenomenon. Whilst hay fever is at its worst during the warmer months (though there are types of pollen prevalent at other times of the year [1]), dust allergies are more likely to strike in winter as windows and doors stay closed trapping dust more readily.

These are some useful strategies to cleanse your environment of the allergens which could be triggering your snoring:

  • Shower before bed. Having a shower before going to bed will rid your hair and body of allergens that may have stuck to you throughout the day. It is also great for normal sleep hygiene as it lowers your body temperature, preparing you for sleep.
  • Wash bedding more often. It is also a good idea to dry laundry away from open windows if you suffer from hay fever.
  • Clean your surroundings. Pollen and dust can also stick to surfaces such as carpets and other soft furnishings. Thorough vacuuming can help, especially if your vacuum cleaner has a built in HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter, as this traps allergens.
  • Consider swapping-out soft furnishings. If your allergies are really affecting you and making your snoring intolerable, it might be time to get rid of the carpets and drapes/curtains in your home. The drastic measure could make drastic differences to your snoring.

Snoring related to allergies can also be effectively managed using these consumer remedies:

  • Neti pots. These use salt water to flush out allergens and soothe inflamed tissue.
  • Air purifiers. These are designed to remove allergens from the air.
  • Nasal sprays can be medicated or non-medicated. Both aim to reduce inflammation. Mast cell inhibitor sprays are a good preventative measure for hay fever sufferers.
  • Antihistamines are a type of anti-inflammatory medication commonly used by allergy sufferers.

A cold

The common cold is brought on by a range of viruses that attack the upper respiratory tract. This invasion coupled with your body’s own defense mechanisms cause your nose to swell and become blocked.

The science bit – why does cold weather increase the chance of the common cold?

Contrary to popular belief, the cold weather itself doesn’t directly make you ill. The colder temperatures simply make you more susceptible to viral infection. This is because we spend greater time indoors where infection can spread more easily. We also have less exposure to protective vitamin D and it is thought that cold weather can dampen the initial immune response when we encounter the common cold.

When your nose is blocked you have to make the switch to mouth breathing which can aggravate snoring. This is because open-mouth snoring narrows the airway and makes inhaled air more turbulent.

You can remedy your cold-induced snoring with:

  • Cold relief medication
  • Neti pots. These simple devices use salt water to soothe your nasal passages and clear excess mucus.
  • Nasal sprays. Anticholinergic nasal sprays are the best type for treating a runny nose, whereas decongestant nasal sprays can be an effective symptom reliever.

Temperature

A cool bedroom around 16°C (61°F) is said to be the ideal temperature for sleeping.

But does this affect snoring?

Scientists have looked into the impact of ambient temperature on sleep apnea severity. They have produced some interesting (and seemingly conflicting) results.

A retrospective study of over 7,000 people found that the average AHI during the warmer months was lower compared to during the colder winter months [2].

A second piece of research confirmed this. Patients with obstructive sleep apnea were split into three groups – one group of patients slept in a 16°C (61°F) room, another at 20°C (68°F) and the remaining at 24°C (75°F). The group in the coldest environment experienced the most apnea events. Confusingly, the same group scored the best in terms of alertness and also reported feeling the least sleepy of the three groups [3]!

Weather changes

Many people who suffer from joint pain claim they can tell when a weather front is moving in due to the atmospheric pressure changes [4]. There is also some evidence to suggest that weather and pressure can affect sleep apnea!

In a study in 2010, more than 500 patients with sleep apnea were observed – the weather was documented alongside the patients’ AHI scores.

When bad weather was rolling in and atmospheric pressure dropped, on average the patients’ sleep apnea worsened [5].

These findings have also been supported by other research into the effect of altitude and pressure on sleep apnea. A case report on a patient with sleep apnea in Colombia found that their AHI scores were greater when at higher altitudes where the atmospheric pressure is lower [6].

Humidity

There is evidence to suggest that breathing in dry air can aggravate the tissues in your nose and throat [7]. So whilst low-humidity is unlikely to be the outright cause of your snoring, it can cause irritation and inflammation which could worsen existing snoring.

Humidifiers can therefore be a useful addition to other anti-snoring measures. Further, they can provide relief from the symptoms of allergies and the common cold – other big causes of “seasonal snoring”.

Read SnoreLab’s guide to buying a humidifier

It is important to note that they are not likely to be effective for sleep apnea sufferers [8]. CPAP machines very frequently have in-built humidifying elements however these are simply to improve comfort and tolerance, not to reduce apnea events.

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References

  1. Grewling L, et al. Pollen nightmare: elevated airborne pollen levels at night. Aerobiologica 2016; 32(4): 725-728. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27890968
  2. Cassol CM, et al. Is sleep apnea a winter disease?: meteorologic and sleep laboratory evidence collected over 1 decade. Chest 2012; 142(6): 1499-1507. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22700779
  3. Valham F, et al. Ambient Temperature and Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Effects on Sleep, Sleep Apnea and Morning Alertness. Sleep 2012; 35(4): 513-517. PMC3296793
  4. Deall C and Majeed H. Review Article Open Access Effect of Cold Weather on the Symptoms of Arthritic Disease: A Review of the Literature. Journal of General Practice 2016; 4: 275. doi: 10.4172/2329-9126.1000275
  5. Doherty MJ, et al. Do Weather-Related Ambient Atmospheric-Pressure Changes Influence Sleep Disordered Breathing? Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine 2010; 6(2): 152-156. 20411692
  6. Castellanos-Ramírez JC, et al. Sleep characteristics in an adult with sleep complaints in three cities at different altitudes. Jornal Brasileiro de Pneumologia 2018; 44(1): 65-68. PMC6104543
  7. Manisha V, et al. Influence of breathing route on upper airway lining liquid surface tension in humans. The Journal of Physiology 2006; 574(Pt 3): 859-866. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16690717
  8. Jokic R, et al. Effect of high versus low ambient humidity on the severity of obstructive sleep apnoea. Thorax 1999; 54: 711-713. 10413725

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