Snoring. The cause of many a fall out between couples and a constant source of embarrassment if you need to share a hotel room with friends or colleagues.
Snoring is a very common issue and it is thought that around half of all people snore at some point during their lives.
It is more common in men than women and the older you get, the more likely you are to snore.
Around 40% of adult men and 24% of adult women are habitual snorers 1.
What is snoring?
Snoring happens when air flows past the relaxed tissues in your throat, causing these to vibrate as you breathe, there are different types of snoring caused by different parts of the mouth:
- The tongue partially blocking the back of the throat
- Narrow or blocked airways in the nose
- An open mouth when sleeping2
This makes a hoarse or harsh sound, like a snorting or rattling, and as many partners can testify, it can be very loud3.
What causes snoring?
There are lots of reasons why someone might snore, ranging from lifestyle factors such as being overweight or drinking alcohol to more serious health conditions.
Most cases of snoring, however, are not due to anything serious. But they can be nuisance!
Here are some of the most common reasons why someone might snore and some things you can try to help you stop snoring:
Being overweight can cause you to snore, as fat may be distributed around your neck and midriff, compressing your airways, pushing your diaphragm up and compressing the ribcage, leading to a reduction in lung capacity4.
It is more common for men to gain fat in these places, which could help to explain why men are more likely to snore than women.
If you are overweight and this is causing you to snore, try to lose weight by following a balanced diet, cutting down on unhealthy snacks and taking part in more regular exercise.
Drinking alcohol before bed time can relax your throat muscles and decrease your defences against obstructions to your airways and so can make you snore5.
Try to cut down on your alcohol consumption by limiting your drinks to no more than 14 units each week, spread over three days.
If you would like to cut down on your alcohol intake, you might also like to try to have a few alcohol-free days each week6.
Your sleeping position
Lying flat on your back in bed can cause the muscles and flesh in your throat to relax and block your airway, causing you to snore7.
Sleeping on your side is the best position to sleep in if you want to reduce your snoring as this reduces the compression of your airways8.
It can be difficult to change your sleeping position, if you have been sleeping that way for a long time.
But there are some things you can do to help with this, including buying specially designed pillows and vibrating training devices, which vibrate each time you turn onto your back.
If you have a partner, they may already “help” you with this by giving you a nudge every time you roll onto your back and start snoring!
Smoke can agitate the space behind your throat and nose causing swelling and a build up of mucus9.
This will cause the airways to be too thin and reduce air flow which can result in heavier snoring.
Not getting enough sleep can encourage the muscles and tissues in your throat to relax more than usual and this can partially block your airways10.
This is a bit of a catch 22 as snoring can mean that you are often waking up throughout the night and not getting enough sleep, which in turn makes your snoring worse!
There are lots of things that you can do to help you get more good quality sleep including eating a healthy balanced diet and using products like sleep candles and sleep sprays.
Nasal and sinus problems
Blocked airways or a stuffy nose can make breathing more difficult and create a vacuum in the throat, which can cause snoring11.
You might find that if you are suffering from a cold or hayfever that you tend to snore, even if you do not usually.
Ensure that you take any medication for these conditions before you go to bed, to help keep snoring at bay.
What is sleep apnoea?
Sometimes snoring can be caused by an underlying health condition.
Snoring is one of the most common symptoms of sleep apnoea.
Sleep apnoea is a serious sleep condition which causes your breath to stop and start during your sleep.
Other sleep apnoea symptoms include making gasping or choking noises during sleep and waking up a lot throughout the night12.
This condition can be serious if not treated and so it is important that you see your GP if you think that you may have sleep apnoea.
There are lots of remedies that can help reduce and even eliminate snoring.
Throat sprays and nose strips are the most common. Sprays are used to lubricate the soft tissues at the back of the throat to minimise the vibrations which cause the familiar snoring sound.
Nose strips help to keep the nostrils open while you’re asleep, which helps the air to flow freely in and out of the nasal passage.
Straps can also be used to help keep your mouth closed while you’re asleep. Strapped around your chin and head, these straps work by keeping your moth closed to limit the vibrations in your throat.
There are also oral devices that can be used to help. A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine blows air into your nose and throat via a mask to ensure your airways are kept open13. A mandibular advancement device (MAD), aimed at tongue snorers, are designed to hold the lower and tongue forwards to make more space to breath, preventing snoring14.
If your snoring is causing you to wake up this could be a sign that your breathing is stopping causing obstructive sleep apnoea. If lifestyle changes and remedies do not help, seek advice from your GP.
Last Updated: 4th January 2021
Author: Bhupesh Panchal, Regulatory Affairs
Bhupesh started his career as a clinical toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products. After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.
In his spare time, Bhupesh likes to cycle and has been learning to speak Korean for several years.