24 April 2017
The sound of someone snoring can make people laugh out loud – unless, of course it's stopping them getting to sleep. Then snoring suddenly becomes a serious issue!
It can cause loving couples to sleep in separate rooms and has even been blamed for some marriage breakdowns. But there are solutions, from simple changes in lifestyle to a range of operations that could correct the causes of the snoring.
As part of National Stop Snoring Week, April 24 to 28, Mr Vikas Malik, Ear, Nose and Throat Consultant at Spire Fylde Coast Hospital, looks at the causes and some of the ways we can tackle the snoring problem.
Mr Malik says: "Snoring is very common, with around 40% of us being snorers at some level or another. In most cases it isn’t a cause for concern – well not for the snorer, although their partner might tell a different tale!
"It is caused by turbulence inside the airways, mostly due to a partial blockage that may be located anywhere from the tip of the nose to the vocal cords. Typically, this occurs when the muscles that keep the airways open become too relaxed or excess tissue accumulates nearby and obstructs airflow.
"In many cases making some simple lifestyle changes could control snoring. Common sense changes such as losing weight, not drinking alcohol within three hours of bedtime and stopping smoking can all have a beneficial effect. Sleeping on your side, sleeping with a thin pillow and keeping pets out of the bedroom can too.
"However there can be times when medical intervention is needed" explains Mr Malik.
"Snoring is often due to a multilevel obstruction with varying degrees of blockage at the level of nose, soft palate, tonsils and the tongue base. Careful assessment to identify the level of obstruction can help to select which patients will benefit most from surgery or from a range of non-surgical devices. Surgery to the nose may be as simple as a septoplasty or turbinate surgery to improve the nasal airway.
"Palate operations are generally to reduce its size or stiffen it up and stop it vibrating and tonsil surgery helps to create more space. Surgery to the tongue base can also be performed but this is less common.
"There are a range of non-surgical products that can also be effective such as mandibular advancement devices that bring the lower jaw forward and improve the airway or even ear plugs for your partner!
"However, snoring could also be a sign of sleep apnoea - a condition that interrupts your breathing when you are asleep.
"In effect you actually stop breathing for a period of time, cutting off the oxygen going to the brain. This can occur multiple times each hour at night and leave you with a muzzy-type headache and feeling sluggish in the morning. You will also find that you fall asleep easily during the day.
"If your partner notices that when your snoring stops you actually stop breathing then you should visit your GP as soon as possible. A common treatment for sleep apnoea is using a CPAP (continuous positive airways pressure) machine.
"Snoring can be controlled but you have to take steps towards controlling it so that both you and your partner get a good night’s sleep."