There was a time when snoring was a bit of a joke. In 70’s sitcoms, for example, well-rested men would regularly wake up to the frosty glares of saggy-eyed wives, exhausted after a night trying to sleep alongside the resident hippo.
It’s fair to say that snoring is taken more seriously these days. Snoring has been recognised as something that can take a real toll on mental and physical wellbeing.
Snoring was once considered annoying but essentially harmless, but more recent research has shown that it can have serious consequences for both health and happiness, true for both the snorer and anyone who has to sleep next to them. It’s also on the increase, with studies showing that more of us snore than ever before.
Here are the facts on snoring, and what snorers can do to stop.
The latest figures suggest that the UK is facing an epidemic of snoring, and men are the worst victims. A recent study found that 41.5% of the UK adult population snores, and twice as many men snore as women.
If you extrapolate from the study—with 1,075 subjects—nearly 10.5 million men in the UK snore. On a bad night, you could probably hear the collective snorts and whistles from space.
These numbers appear to be increasing. The disparity may be partly explained by the fact that fewer people took snoring seriously in 1992, when one study put the total number of snorers in the UK at just 3.5 million. But it could also be because the population are becoming fatter, drinking more and working longer hours.
Why do we snore?
These factors: becoming fatter, drinking more and working longer hours: say something about the cause of snoring. Excess weight, alcohol consumption and exhaustion can all cause snoring or make it worse.
Essentially, we all snore for the same reason. When we go to sleep our upper airway relaxes or there is a partial blockage in the upper airway. In snoring this upper airway collapses to such a degree or the partial blockage causes, the column of air passing through to vibrate, and thus the snoring.
Of course some people snore all the time, some people never, and some people occasionally. Both regular and occasional snorers can make their snoring more frequent, louder or both, by overeating, taking too little exercise, smoking and sleeping on their backs. Allergies and nasal stuffiness also contribute.
These factors effect everyone’s snoring, but it is interesting to note that studies find that even women who snore tend to do so less frequently than men, about a third less, and that their snoring is generally reported as quieter.
Recent research found that 41.5% of the UK adult population snores
How does snoring affect health?
The most obvious effect is tiredness. Snoring leads to disrupted sleep, which leads to that all consuming sense of fatigue the next day. But that’s just the start.
For snorers, in the short term they suffer disrupted sleep that will impact on their daily functioning.
Snoring is also a symptom of the more serious condition of obstructive sleep apnoea, which can exacerbate other also more serious health conditions.
Sleep apnoea can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, irritability, headaches, anxiety and loss of libido. Hypertension, heart disease, high cholesterol and type two diabetes are also all more common in snorers. It also results in the withdrawal of a driving licence of those whose diagnosis is confirmed and who remain untreated.
The further problem is that it is not just the snorer that suffers. A bad snorer can be louder than a chainsaw, a vacuum cleaner or a lawnmower. Bed partners of snorers suffer twice as many health problems as those of non-snorers. This is probably due to sleep deprivation and stress on the relationship.
Long-term snoring can be a symptom of the more serious
medical condition of obstructive sleep apnoea
What other problems does snoring cause?
Waking up tired and stressed from snoring, and your partner wakes up tired and stressed from listening to your snoring, it is not difficult to see how tensions might arise.
Snoring is a major cause of arguments among couples and consequently can put a strain on a relationship.
Sleep deprivation makes couples tetchy in the morning, but the anticipation of another bad night can make them tetchy in the evening too. For couples with a spare room, sleeping apart can be the answer, but such a lack of intimacy can also cause relationship problems. The best thing for all concerned is to tackle the snoring at source.
What can you do about snoring?
You can’t cure snoring, but you can control it. The first thing to do is to seek advice from the team of specialists involved in the diagnosis and treatment of snoring and related disorders which are designated “The Upper Respiratory Obstructive Syndrome”.
These specialists include, a Consultant in Respiratory Medicine, a Consultant in ENT and a Consultant Orthodontist. Any of these can start the journey on the path to snoring elimination. Sometimes a dietician and a Consultant Maxillo– Facial Surgeon are also involved as the treatment progresses.
Critical to the elimination of snoring and the more serious condition of sleep apnoea, are the establishment of the obstruction level, and thus the involvement of this group of specialists in this process.
Once the level of the obstruction is identified in your upper respiratory tree, treatment can be aimed at eliminating this obstruction and thus eliminate the snoring. The level can be in the nose, at the level of the soft palate, beneath the soft palate and at the base of the tongue; sometimes there are a number of levels.
It could also be that snoring is caused or worsened by lifestyle factors, in which case, losing weight (if you need to) thus the input of a dietician, cutting alcohol consumption and quitting smoking are all good ideas. Even being encouraged to sleep on the side can be beneficial.
Now so much more is known about the health and social implications of being a snorer, people tend to take the problem more seriously than they ever did before. More importantly, many are now seeking advice and are being relieved of this tiresome problem.
There is no cure for snoring but there are lots of ways to control it