Yoga for Snoring?!

Photo: Tiny Snores by pheezy. Available under a CC BY-2.0 licence.

I've been trying out a new smartphone alarm application that monitors your sleep patterns and calculates the best time to wake you. This version also records noises in the night that might disturb your sleep. I knew that I snored but I didn't realise how loud I was!

Snoring occurs when the muscles at the back of the throat relax and vibrate as we breathe. Causes of snoring can be temporary such as eating or drinking too late at night or something more permanent such as a deformity of the nose. There are many potential causes: allergies, nasal congestion, consumption of alcohol, being overweight or obese, medications. Even age and sleep position can be a cause. Severe snoring can also be associated with more serious disorders such as sleep apnoea. Consult your doctor if you are concerned with your snoring, particularly if it is disrupting yours or your partner's sleep or you wake up gasping or choking.

Not expecting any results I googled “yoga for snoring” and was surprised to find a number of articles. From what I've read there are no yoga practices that can ‘cure’ snoring. However, there are practices that might help with some of the causes.

Specific practices cited focus on the throat or aim to reduce stress. Some of these practices are:

  • Yoga nidra

    One of my favourite practices, yoga nidra is great for relaxing the body and mind and developing focus.

    When I work from home I like to slip in a 10-20 minute practice in the afternoon, just to refresh me so I can settle for the rest of the day.

    Other practices that seem to help ‘monkey minds’ are the Satyananda walking meditation and Dru waves of peace relaxation, which combine movements with breath.

  • Roaring lion pose (Simhargarjasana)

    The roaring lion releases tensions around the upper body and can help with throat-related problems.

  • Humming bee breath (Bhramari)

    The humming bee breath can help to clear and strengthen the throat. It is categorised as a tranquilising breath because the sound helps to soothe the mind.

    Cautions: Do not practice this breath if you suffer from severe ear infections.

  • Psychic breath (Ujjayi)

    The psychic breath is another tranquilising breath that can help clear and strengthen the throat.

    I was originally taught ujjayi to help reduce my blood pressure and ease my stress. I still find the practice difficult; I really need to think about breathing in and out through my throat. So, when I need additional instructions I like to use this video on ujjayi breathing.

  • Chanting and kirtan

    Both of these practices can help strengthen the throat muscles (and also relieve stress!)

  • Cleansing practices of jala neti (nasal cleansing) and kunjal kriya

    Jala neti might help with allergies and nasal congestion and kunjal kriya with throat problems.

    Cautions: Consult your doctor before trying these techniques and ensure that you learn from an accredited yoga teacher.

    Personally, I'm am very cautious about performing these practices. I seem to end up with sinus problems when I practice jala neti and sometimes also with kunjal kriya.

So where does that leave me?

I'm pretty sure my snoring is due to my weight. However, because the style of yoga I practice does not give me the cardio workout I require, I'm trying to walk more each week. (The dog loves it!)

Why am I overweight? I'm an emotional eater—I eat when I'm stressed and I eat when I'm bored. Give me something to occupy my mind and I forget food.

The downside? I'm like a dog with a bone and will work late into the night and then be too tired the next day to think. How does yoga help? At the moment, my yoga practice seems to balance me, increasing my self-awareness so that I can identify my moods and make better food choices. (Mind you, today I'm functioning on 3 hours sleep and I know I made bad food choices but at least I was aware that I was making them and why! I'll just have to pay the consequences on the scale this week.)

Other than that, I'm trying to sleep on my side instead of my back; including the lion, one of the breaths, and some chanting and relaxation in my personal practice; and attending a chanting and kirtan session every 1-2 months. I've even led a kirtan twice —not bad considering that I never thought I'd be attending regular kirtan sessions, yet alone lead one.

The results ... check back here in a few weeks time!