Before you sign up for a sleep test or take sleeping pills to sleep, you might want to ask yourself if your sleep disorder is caused by postnasal drip.
“Can I still snore if I keep my mouth closed when I sleep?” Well, while you are less likely to snore if you keep your mouth closed, in some cases you still can.
Many people understand that snoring is caused by airway vibration due to the narrow air channel and a strong airflow. One of the main contributors to that is mouth breathing during sleep. Therefore, you might think that by having a closed mouth during sleep then you would be immune to snoring. But this is not always true, as postnasal drip can also disturb your breathing and disrupt your sleep.
What Is It?
Postnasal drip is basically your excessive mucus dripping down from your nasal cavity, through your nasal pharynx and then down to your throat. You find breathing and swallowing more difficult than usual as if something is stuck in your throat, and makes you want to clear your throat constantly.
Postnasal drip happens particularly during allergy season, a sinus infection, or when you catch a cold or flu. Postnasal drip can also be long term for some people with chronic nasal disorder. Sometimes certain drugs you take could also cause excessive mucus as a side effect.
Snoring Caused By Postnasal Drip
The excessive mucus along your pharynx narrows the passage and increases turbulence as the air flows through your airway, causing you to snore. However, this type of snore is usually quieter than the type of snore from a partially collapsed airway, and the snoring sound is different. Nevertheless, any type of snore is annoying.
“…we cleansed his nasal cavity with warm saline water prior to sleep. Two days later he returned and said the snore was gone”
A gentleman once came to see us with his wife, asking if he should go through a sleep test because his wife had made several complaints to him regarding his snore that started not long ago. Besides the snore, he had also felt breathing in bed was more difficult. Just by examining his throat and nasal cavity, we found signs of postnasal drip as there was some white thick mucus observed in the oropharynx area. So we told him to use the pulsatile nasal irrigation method to cleanse his nasal cavity with warm saline water prior to sleep. Two days later he returned and said the snore was gone.
Insomnia Caused By Postnasal Drip
“You always have to clear your throat by getting out of bed and going to the bathroom to spit it out.”
Not only the snoring sound can disturb your partner’s sleep, the frustration of something sticking inside your throat can cause you to lose sleep as well. I personally have suffered from this before, especially the nights when I had a cold. Part of the reason is because the thick mucus is throughout your pharynx, trying to swallow it down just doesn’t work. You always have to clear your throat by getting out of bed and going to the bathroom to spit it out. But not long after you lie down again, you feel the mucus is back to your throat.
“…for over a decade she had been relying on taking sleeping pills. Once she got rid of the postnasal drip, she no longer needed those sleeping pills anymore.”
We had a 70 year old woman come in for a check-up because she was constantly coughing and had phlegm for years. After a quick diagnosis it turned out that her troubles were caused by postnasal drip. She was then taught to cleanse her nasal and sinus cavity with pulsatile nasal irrigation. After a month, she told us not only did she stop coughing and struggling with phlegm; she was also able to go to sleep without taking sleeping pills. This woman was actually having insomnia because of the discomfort in her throat, which made it difficult for her to fall asleep, and for over a decade she had been relying on taking sleeping pills. Once she got rid of the postnasal drip, she no longer needed those sleeping pills anymore.
How To Prevent & Stop Postnasal Drip?
Having a healthy airway and diet habit can certainly help prevent postnasal drip. For example, if there are certain foods that make your nose slightly congested after eating them, try to avoid or reduce the intake amount of these foods. Dairy products are a common one, but it could be different for you. And try to finish your last meal at least 3 hours before bed, this should give your body enough time to fully process the foods and prevent acid reflux -which could also add discomfort to your throat.
You also want to keep your upper airway moist by having enough water intake, especially during winter time when houses are usually dryer due to heating. Breathing solely through your nose can also help retain moisture in the upper airway and reduce the amount of allergens in your body.
If you do find that you are troubled at night due to postnasal drip, then the most effective drug-free method to remove all the excessive mucus is to rinse your nasal and sinus cavity with the pulsatile nasal irrigation method.