It's not easy to stop snoring: after all, it's not something you're aware of doing. This troublesome sleep habit isn't just annoying to your other half: it can disturb and reduce the quality of your sleep, causing health problems later in life. People tend to think of snorers as very deep sleepers, but the truth is actually the opposite: snoring can deprive you of the necessary deep sleep needed to keep your energy levels up during the day.
If you're always getting complaints about your snoring, or you're consistently feeling tired and want to do something about it, sleep experts have been studying the phenomena and have come up with a few solutions.
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Stop snoring: What is obstructive sleep apnoea?
First, it's important to make sure your snoring isn't a sign of obstructive sleep apnoea, which is a more serious underlying condition. According to the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association (BSSAA), the condition is defined as "the cessation of airflow during sleep preventing air from entering the lungs, caused by an obstruction."
In sleep apnoea, a lack of muscle tone in your upper airway often causes it to collapse when asleep, obstructing the passage of air and creating snoring as the air vibrates against the obstruction when drawn into the mouth or nose. It can also result in excessive daytime sleepiness, irritability, forgetfulness, increased likelihood of heart disease and even anxiety or depression. It is essentially a low-grade form of sleep deprivation, as it prevents your body reaching those normal "deep sleep" cycles.
Many (but not all) sleep apnoea sufferers are overweight or obese. If you're in this weight range and your snoring is causing your problems, consider speaking to your doctor about potential sleep apnoea treatments, which can include weight loss and continuous positive airway pressure therapy, or CPAP.
Stop snoring: What are the causes of snoring?
While all snoring comes from your airway being partially blocked, it's not always the result of sleep apnoea. Snoring can come from the anatomy of your mouth, such as an elongated uvula or large tonsils, or nasal congestion, according to research by the Snoring Centre in Dallas.
Seasonal allergies which cause blockages in the throat and mouth can restrict the airway and cause snoring. Alcohol is another major factor because of its muscle-relaxing qualities: drinking before bed relaxes the throat, which makes obstructions more likely to occur.
The Snoring Centre also found eating spicy foods can contribute to snoring, due to your body creating acid reflux as a response to them. Acid and undigested food particles travel back up the airway while you're lying down, causing blockages that creating more snoring problems.
Stop snoring: What not to do before bed
- Drink less alcohol, and very little before bed
- Don't eat spicy foods before bed
- Don't smoke or vape. Smoking causes respiratory problems, which can contribute to airway restrictions
- When settling down to sleep, lie on your side. Lying on your back can cause snoring due to our tongue blocking the airway
Stop snoring: How to fix it
Aside from abstaining from all of the habits above and maintaining a healthy weight, there are sleeping aid products which offer some help to snorers. Nasal strips and dilators prevent nostril collapse and allow more air into the lungs, but this only works if the blockages occur in your nose.
Meanwhile, specialist mouthguards and chinstraps are available to hold the lower jaw and tongue forward making more space to breathe and prevent snoring. These have all been found to have varying effectiveness, from very little to almost completely solving the problem by itself. However, you're also going to need to avoid the lifestyle factors mentioned above.
You can find out whether you're a nose or mouth snorer by taking the BSSAA's online test here, so you can figure out the best way to tackle the problem going forward.