Snoring


Most people deny they snore and if they admit claim it doesn't bother them, but in some cases snoring can cause health problems.

What causes it?
The noise of snoring is caused by parts of the nose and throat - in particular, the soft palate - vibrating as you breathe in and out. At night, the muscles that help keep your airways open relax and become floppy. This causes the airways to narrow and vibrate more, making snoring more likely.

There are also a number of factors that can make snoring worse:

Alcohol or sleeping tablets - these relax the muscles even further
Being overweight - this puts pressure on the airways
Colds, allergies, nasal polyps, a damaged or crooked nose - can block the nose, causing you to breathe through your mouth
Smoking - smokers are twice as likely as non-smokers to snore because their airways get inflamed and blocked
Sleeping on your back


What are the effects?
Prods, kicks, and punches from your partner, the threat of divorce and complaints from the neighbours are all common.

You may also be suffering with obstructive sleep apnoea. In this condition, the relaxed throat muscles block the airway briefly hundreds of times each night stopping you breathing and depriving your body of oxygen.

In the short-term this causes tiredness during the day, irritability and restlessness, and puts you at risk of accidents when driving, for example.

In the long-term it can cause high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Treatment involves wearing a dental splint and using a continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP) machine while you sleep to keep the airways properly ventilated.

Who's affected?
More than 3.5 million people in the UK snore. It's thought to affect four out of ten men and up to three out of ten women. And, of course, millions of partners and neighbours suffer sleep-disturbed nights as a result.

What's the treatment?
The following can help reduce the chances of you snoring:

Avoid drinking alcohol late at night
Maintain your ideal weight
Raise the head of the bed
Sleep on your side (to stop you rolling on to your back, sew a ball in the back of your pyjama top or wedge a pillow under your back)
Keep your nasal passages clear by using a humidifier, inhaling steam or rubbing a few drops of eucalyptus or olbas oil on your pillowcase (antihistamine tablets and/or anti-inflammatory nasal sprays may help; always check with the pharmacist that they're suitable for you, especially if you're taking other medicines)
Other 'cures' you may want to try include nasal strips, devices that reposition the jaw and sprays. Try a few to see what works for you.

As a last resort, surgery can be used to remove nasal polyps, straighten crooked noses and cut out floppy soft palate tissue to stop it vibrating.

Laser surgery stiffens the palate to reduce vibration. Somnoplasty uses radio frequency energy to shrink the floppy soft palate tissue rather than cutting it out.