Choose the right solution for your type of snoring.
Millions of people in Britain often miss out on a good night’s sleep because of a partner’s nocturnal loud snoring. This can lead to many different aspects of poor health, particularly for the person snoring, but also for the one who has the disturbed night.
Many serious illnesses are closely related to snoring including major life-threatening problems such as Type 2 Diabetes, Cancer, Strokes, Heart attacks and many more. Nearly half of all middle-aged men snore, but it’s not solely a male problem. It affects women too, particularly later in life, and after the menopause.
In fact, currently it’s estimated that 41% of adult Britons snore, and the total is growing, mostly due to changes in lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol, and gaining weight.
As there are numerous causes for snoring, the key thing is to work out what type of snorer you are before buying devices and remedies to help.
The main triggers for snoring have already been listed and are often difficult to deal with:
Weight gain is linked to a host of health problems and is a main trigger for snoring in men because, unlike women, they have a tendency to put on weight around their necks. If you have a larger collar size (17 and above) the fatty tissue around the neck will squeeze the airway and hinder the smooth passage of oxygen when you are breathing in your sleep. This narrowing is what causes the vibration called snoring. Losing weight through careful diet and exercise is obviously the solution and will help snoring to decrease over time.
Alcohol is another trigger and because it’s a sedative it helps to relax the muscles at the back of the throat – again causing snoring as the throat constricts. Sleeping pills and some medication, such as antihistamines, can produce a similar effect. The answer is of course to drink less, particularly in the later hours before going to bed.
Smoking is a common problem and smokers are roughly twice as likely to snore as non-smokers. The cigarette smoke irritates the lining of the nasal cavity and throat, causing swelling and catarrh – the result is snoring. The congestion makes it difficult to breathe through the nose and the more you smoke, the more you’ll snore – and even passive smoking plays a part.
Other factors such as allergies, including hay fever, can cause congestion, and also your sleeping position, can also be a trigger. Sleeping on your back causing the airway to close by falling back on itself is also a reason for snoring.
The important thing however, before selecting a remedy for snoring, is to analyse how you snore, and for this you may need your partner’s help to look. The key areas to identify that will determine what you can buy to help you are as follows:
Type 1 • Mouth breathing
If you sleep through the night with your mouth open, you are likely to snore. When we breathe in through the nose, the air passes over the curved part of the soft palate in a gentle flow into the throat without creating unnecessary turbulence. However, when we breathe in through the mouth, the air hits the back of the throat ‘head on’ and can create enormous vibrations in the soft tissue.
Solution: Mouth breathing devices, including Chin Straps to prevent the mouth falling open will help you to breathe through your nose.
Type 2 • Tongue base snoring
If you’ve been a heavy snorer for some time, damage to the nerves and muscles of the upper airway mean they’re more prone to collapse and this restricts the airway and vibrates the tissue of the tongue, causing it to block the airway and so preventing you from breathing. This is termed apnoea – literally meaning “without breath”.
Solution: Clinical studies show that a mandibular advancement device (MAD) can help keep the tongue away from the back of the throat by moving the jaw forward slightly.
Or is it obstructive sleep apnoea?
Obstructive sleep apnoea is a condition that leads to constantly interrupted breathing during sleep and is caused by an obstruction to the airway. It affects around four per cent of middle-aged men and two per cent of middle-aged women, and studies indicate that 60 per cent of those over 65 have OSA.
Those affected stop breathing for periods of 10 seconds or more before waking with a loud snore or snort as the brain registers a lack of oxygen. People with sleep apnoea usually complain of excessive daytime sleepiness often with irritability or restlessness but have no recollection of episodes of apnoea. It’s usually the bed partner who notices the symptoms in this case.
OSA can range from very mild to very severe. But, left untreated, it can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and other conditions. Treatment ranges from a MAD for mild to moderate conditions, to continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), using a machine to prevent your airway from collapsing or becoming blocked, for those who have it severely.
In essence it’s a 3-way choice – a Chin Strap, an oral appliance (MAD), or CPAP – but the latter is only for the most severe cases of obstructive sleep apnoea and it needs thorough diagnosis and careful medical supervision. MAD’s and Chin Straps on the other hand are inexpensive and easily available without prescription from NHS approved suppliers.
By John Redfern