Snoring is very common and isn’t usually a sign of anything serious, although it can affect the quality of your sleep – and can also affect your partner’s sleep. Around 45% of adults snore occasionally, with 25% being regular snorers.
As snoring often gets worse as you get older and can disturb your partner, it’s a good idea to understand what causes it and what could help reduce your snoring so you can both get a good night’s sleep.
Snoring is the name for noisy breathing while asleep. It can cause a snorting, grunting, wheezing or rattling sound.
In a small number of cases, snoring can be a sign of a more serious health condition that may need treatment, so see your GP if your snoring is getting worse or is persistent.
Snoring is caused by air flowing over the relaxed muscles in your throat when you sleep, which can cause the tissues in your airway to vibrate as you breathe. The vibrations of these tissues narrow your airways, which causes a noise when the air is pushed through.
While most people will snore occasionally, some people are more prone to snoring. You’re more likely to snore as you get older because the muscle tone in your throat decreases and causes your airways to narrow while you’re sleeping. Other factors that can make you more likely to snore include:
In most cases, you don’t need to see a GP about your snoring as it isn’t usually serious.
However, if you’re experiencing persistent snoring that is interrupting your or your partner’s sleep, you should discuss it with your GP.
Snoring can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). If someone has OSA, they will often snore loudly followed by periods of silence where breathing stops or nearly stops. This pause in breathing can make you wake up and you may wake up with a snort.
Not everyone who snores has OSA, but if your snoring is accompanied by other symptoms, you should talk to your GP. OSA symptoms to look out for include:
If your snoring isn’t a symptom of OSA, there are a few things you can do to try to stop your snoring or at least reduce the effect it’s having on your partner:
If you’ve tried the above and they haven’t helped, if your snoring is seriously affecting your partner or if your snoring is accompanied by OSA symptoms, you should speak to your GP. They will be able to investigate the cause and find a suitable treatment for your snoring.
Treatments can include mandibular advancement devices to bring your tongue forward and stop it from blocking your throat, a vestibular shield to make you breathe through your nose or a chin strap to hold your mouth closed. If your snoring is caused by blocked or narrow airways in your nose, you may be given nasal dilators to hold your nose open or a spray to reduce swelling.
If these treatments don’t work and depending on the underlying cause, your doctor may recommend surgery such as removing your tonsils, removing nasal polyps or straightening a crooked nose. Other surgeries include tightening the soft tissue that contributes to snoring or removing part or all of the uvula (the tissue that dangles at the back of your throat).
If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on the subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Spire hospital.
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Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences. Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.
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