How to stop snoring
Author: Jonathan Warren
Snoring is extremely common and affects around 30 million sleepers across the UK alone, posing a pesky problem when it comes to sleep quality and our overall well-being. Whilst disruptive to those of us that are woken up by the coarse sounds of our loved ones when snoozing, it also has a direct impact on the snorer too, especially if it’s impacting their air flow.
Although mild or occasional snoring is not usually a cause for concern, when it’s having an effect on your ability to get a good night’s rest, it’s important not to overlook it and instead, uncover and address the potential triggers.
Here, we cover the common causes associated with snoring, whilst exploring the potential health implications and the actions you can take to limit your likelihood.
When we fall asleep, our muscles and ultimately, the surrounding tissue, starts to relax. As we then breathe, air moves back and forth past these tissues, causing vibrations that emit sometimes loud and disruptive sounds, also known as snoring.
For most people, the sound is made on an inhale and can come through a mixture of the throat and nasal passages, resulting in one of the three main types of snoring; nasal, mouth, and tongue. Nasal and mouth snoring mostly occurs when there is a blockage to the nasal passage, whereas tongue snorers experience vibrations at the base of the tongue.
There are a number of different factors that determine if someone will be prone to snoring or not, which include, but are not limited to:
When our sinuses are impacted by an illness, it can be difficult to breathe through the nose and therefore our only option is to sleep with our mouth open. This can then cause the muscles in the throat to relax more than they usually would, to the point of inducing snoring.
Excess weight, especially in areas such as the neck or stomach, have been known to cause problems with a person’s ability to breathe properly, specifically when laying in certain positions, therefore increasing the likelihood of snoring.
If you can’t resist sleeping on your back, you might want to try, as this particular habit suggests you’re more likely to snore. As your tongue will relax towards the back of your mouth, and with gravity working against your throat, your breathing can be obstructed, causing you to snore as a result.
Ever noticed your partners snoring seeming louder after an evening of alcohol? It just so happens that it causes the muscles associated with snoring to relax and therefore - you guessed it - the more a person drinks, the more relaxed the muscles become, increasing both the chances of snoring as well as the volume.
Misconceptions and myths about snoring
"You only snore in deep sleep"
This is incorrect. Snoring can take place in most, if not all, stages of your sleep cycle, and largely depends on other factors such as your respiratory health and positioning. There is a difference however between light and heavy snorers, the former of which is more likely to take place in any sleep stage.
"I snore often, so it must be related to a health condition"
False. You can be a regular snorer and it not be related to a health condition such as sleep apnea. However, if you do have concerns, it is always worth reaching out to a medical professional for reassurance.
"Snoring only affects men or people who are overweight"
Both of these statements lack truth. Whilst it has been recorded that men and people who are overweight are more prone to snoring, it is not exclusive to either and can happen to pretty much everyone.
The health implications of snoring
For those that experience chronic snoring, you could be at risk of developing a health implication, which is why you should monitor your routine and raise any concerns with a professional.
Snoring is commonly associated with a condition known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and is often explained as loud snoring followed by moments of silence when a person’s breathing either nearly stops or stops for a brief period, and in itself is related to a multitude of health problems.
Other implications reported to be linked with snoring:
- An increased likelihood of a stroke as a result of carotid atherosclerosis (narrowing of the neck arteries)
- Heart disease, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease
- Daytime fatigue
- Mental health issues
- Cognitive impairment
Whilst it is not guaranteed that one of the listed conditions is either a cause or will develop if you snore, there is a need to address experiences of on-going snoring, not only for the personal comfort of yourself and anyone you share a bed with, but primarily for overall well-being and health.
Lifestyle changes and habits
Committing to changing any potentially-damaging lifestyle habits is a great way to start your journey to combating snoring. These can be categorised into different areas of your life:
Addressing your sleeping habits and working to improve your sleep routine can sometimes be a quick-win, this could include maintaining a consistent sleep schedule to regulate your circadian rhythm, as well as creating a comfortable environment for yourself when you go to bed.
It goes without saying that maintaining a healthy weight, through a balanced and nutritious diet as well as regular exercise, can have both a positive impact on your overall sleep wellness along with your likelihood of snoring.
That’s not all, reducing alcohol consumption and limiting any use of sedatives before bedtime are also impactful changes that you can make.
Switch up your positions
As we know, people who sleep on their back are more likely to snore than those who don’t. Therefore, switching up your sleep positions to help prevent any obstructions to your airways can be a beneficial lifestyle change.
Home remedies and natural approaches
If you are someone who is prone to congestion and has a suspicion that this could be the cause of your snoring, there are a number of different natural remedies available that might help alleviate the hoarse sounds that escape your mouth and nose every night.
Saline nasal rinses or nasal strips can help to clear blocked nasal passages and congestion, and therefore ultimately, positively impact snoring. Essential oils such as peppermint or eucalyptus are also a go-to source of relief, but make sure that you check the instructions before incorporating them into your routine.
Perhaps surprisingly, a humidifier can also help you sleep without snoring. In months that you’re less likely to open windows, the air can become dry and as a result, your nasal passages suffer, making you more susceptible to snoring.
Face, throat, and tongue exercises, also known as oropharyngeal muscle exercises, shouldn’t be overlooked either. Regular movements like these can help to strengthen your muscles and airways and encourage appropriate breathing.
If you feel as though you’ve tried everything and you’re not seeing any improvement, there are common anti-snoring devices that can be explored:
This is a nasal device that you insert into your nostril which aids in your breathing by reducing resistance to air when inhaling. However, it is worth noting that nasal dilators will work best if your snoring is as a result of an obstruction to your nose.
Tongue stabilising devices
If you suffer from sleep apnea or you sleep on your back, you (and your sleep pattern) might benefit from a tongue stabilising device. Its purpose is to limit your tongue from falling back into your throat and obstructing your airways, and ultimately, limiting the likelihood of snoring.
Mandibular advancement devices (MADs)
Aimed more so at tongue snorers, MADs work by holding the lower jaw and tongue in a forward position so the sleeper has more room to breathe, and are less likely to snore as a result.
With any and all of these devices, it is recommended that you speak with a medical professional to check if it's the right option for you, before purchasing.
Medical interventions and professional help
According to NHS guidelines, if you’re not seeing any benefit from lifestyle changes and are suffering daytime fatigue, your snoring is impacting your partner’s life, or if you have trouble breathing when asleep, you should seek help from a medical professional.
Treatment options are largely dependent on the cause of snoring. One of the ways in which a doctor can determine this is through a diagnostic test, otherwise known as a sleep study, called Polysomnography. This will record your brain waves, the oxygen level in your blood, and your heart rate and breathing patterns whilst you sleep, and is often used to uncover underlying sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
Once the root of your snoring is diagnosed, a medical professional may explore anti-snoring devices or alternative treatments that are better suited to you. Other options include methods like continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) which introduces air flow to your airways to help stabilise and keep the airways open.
In summary, whilst snoring isn’t uncommon and impacts many people throughout the UK and beyond, it shouldn’t have to. If you’ve noticed that it’s causing you or your partner to have a disruptive nighttime routine, it’s important to get it checked, so you can both sleep soundly.
Want more tips to help with your sleep hygiene journey?
We’ve got you covered. Our Time4Sleep blog has a number of helpful resources and tips to help you get the most of your sleep.