Snoring is a sound made by the mouth, nose and throat vibrating while breathing in and out during sleep. Snoring is very common. It affects more people as they get older because the muscles in the throat become weaker. Snoring is also more common in men than women.

Snoring can lead to sleep disturbed nights for both the snorer and their partner and family. This sleep disturbance can then lead to tiredness during the day and irritability. Eventually if left uncontrolled, snoring can affect performance at work and can put a strain on relationships.

Causes

While sleeping the muscles in the mouth and throat relax. This causes the airway to narrow and this partial blockage causes vibrations.

Certain factors can make you more likely to snore or can make snoring worse, for example

  • When you have a cold you are more likely to breathe through your mouth when you are asleep making snoring much more likely
  • Similarly, if you suffer from an allergy such as hayfever you may experience a blocked up nose and inflammation of the nose and throat. This will make you more likely to breathe through your mouth when you are asleep
  • Certain sleep positions can make you more likely to snore. For example, if you sleep on your back your tongue will fall to the back of your throat partially blocking your airway
  • If you suffer from nasal polyps you may be more likely to snore because the polyps block the nasal passages forcing you to breathe through your mouth
  • Certain physical factors such as a damaged or crooked nose or the shape of your tonsils may make you more likely to snore
  • If you are overweight you will have more fat deposited around your throat. This will make your airway narrower so that you are more likely to snore

How to Avoid Snoring

Do not smoke as smoke irritates the soft tissue in the nose and throat and can cause inflammation and congestion.Do not drink alcohol before going to bed as it relaxes the muscles in your throat.If you are overweight, try to lose weight and take regular exercise.Adjust your sleeping position. You could try raising the head of your bed, sleeping on your side or adjusting the way you arrange your pillows.Do not take sleeping medicines as they will relax the muscles in your throat.Try keeping your nasal passages clear by using a humidifier in your bedroom. You could also try inhaling steam before you go to bed or using eucalyptus oil drops on your pillow or handkerchief. If you suffer from an allergy try taking an antihistamine to control your allergic symptoms.

Treatment

Snoring can be controlled rather than cured. There are many treatments available on the market to prevent snoring. They all work in different ways therefore it may be a case of trial and error before you find the best solution for you. Preventative treatments include:

  • Nasal dilators which enlarge the nostrils and stop the nasal cavity collapsing when you breathe in
  • Nasal strips which open up the nostrils
  • Strips and guards which keep your mouth closed while you sleep
  • Herbal sprays which have astringent properties causing the tissue to shrink and tighten reducing the vibrations
  • Oral devices which fit inside the mouth to hold the lower jaw and tongue forward
  • Surgery which may be used in extreme cases to correct physical abnormalities

When to see a doctor

If you find that you are falling asleep during the day or if you often feel irritable and restless, it may be that you are suffering from a condition known as sleep apnoea so you must consult your doctor. Sleep apnoea causes you to stop breathing momentarily while you are asleep and if left untreated over a long period of time may lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke.

Additional Information

For more information about snoring, contact the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association helpline on 0800 085 1097 or visit their website at www.britishsnoring.co.uk