What is Snoring?
Snoring is the snorting, rattling sound made when a person breathes during sleep.
The noise comes from soft tissues in the mouth, nose, or throat, vibrating.
Some people rarely snore, and snore only as a side effect of a cold or when laying on their back during sleep. Other people snore every night. Snoring is graded according to frequency and volume, so if you snore loudly enough to be heard in the next room, and you snore every night, then you’re a severe snorer.
What are the main causes?
While you sleep the muscles in your head and neck relax, causing your airways to narrow and slacken. Narrowing airways cause a change in air pressure while you breathe, and this causes the side of your airways to vibrate.
The same effect can be caused by colds, sore throats, and enlarged tonsils.
If untreated snoring can get worse. The vibrations in the muscular wall damage the blood vessels, which cause the muscles to weaken. If this happens you’re less able to keep your airways open, which means snoring more often and more loudly.
Your chances of snoring are increased by:
People with a neck circumference of more than 43cm are much more likely to snore.
Alcohol relaxes your muscles when you sleep, which increases the likelihood of snoring.
Taking sedatives and some types of antidepressants
These can have a similar effect to alcohol.
Tobacco smoke inflames your airways, making it more likely that you’ll snore.
This happens when the inside of your nasal passages swell in reaction to allergens like dust or pollen.
Is it serious?
Snoring as a side-effect of a temporary condition like a cold or sore throat isn’t especially serious or concerning. Sleep Apnoea, however, is potentially more serious and if you think you have it you should speak to a GP straight away.
when the muscles in your head and neck relax enough to cause a blockage of your airway for 10 seconds or more.
When the muscles in your head and neck relax enough to reduce your airways by more than 50% for 10 seconds or more.
Most people who have sleep apnoea experience episodes of both sleep apnoea and sleep hypopnoea, so doctors refer to them collectively.
What is sleep apnoea and sleep hypopnoea?
If you have this you will experience repeated episodes throughout the night.
Each episode causes a lack of oxygen intake, which triggers your brain to pull you out of deep sleep until you’re able to reopen your airways and breathe normally. This can cause you to return to a lighter level of sleep, or to wake up completely.
If you have these conditions you will snore loudly, your breathing will be laboured and noisy, and it may be interrupted by gasping and snorting.
Repeated interruptions to your sleep cycle can cause you to feel very tired during the day. You’ll not remember your interrupted sleep and breathing, so you won’t necessarily know you’ve got a problem unless a friend or family member notices the symptoms while you’re asleep.
If untreated, sleep apnoea and sleep hypopnoea can impact your quality of life, negatively impacting on your performance at work and at school. It can also put strain on your relationships with others, especially if you share a room with a family member or partner. Not seeking treatment can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, and irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation). A continued lack of sleep can also lead to serious accidents caused by tiredness.
Is there a cure for snoring?
There are various methods you can try that may help to alleviate your symptoms.
- Clear your nasal passages - rinse your nasal passages with saline solution before you go to bed
- Use nasal strips
- Take an antihistamine
- Change your sleeping position - elevating your head by four inches can ease breathing by moving your head and jaw forward – opening up the airways
- Sleep on your side - you can stitch a sock into the inside of the back of your pyjamas and put a tennis ball in there. This will make sleeping on your back uncomfortable, so you’ll naturally roll over before your snoring can disturb your sleep
Is there a cure for Sleep apnoea and hypopnoea?
Sleep apnoea and hypopnoea is treatable by a variety of methods.
Losing excess weight, cutting down on alcohol, and sleeping on your side all help to alleviate symptoms.
Using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device
These prevent your airways from closing while you’re asleep by delivering constant compressed air through a mask.
Wearing a mandibular advancement device (MAD)
This is basically a gum-shield that fits around your teeth, holding your jaw and tongue forward to increase the space at the back of your throat while you sleep.
In extreme cases, and in cases where your condition is linked to a rare physical problem that can be corrected, surgery may be suggested. This is often a last resort.
How can babylon help?
babylon GPs are able to offer advice on all healthcare problems. If your snoring is affecting your life, book an appointment now and talk to one of our GPs wherever you are, at a time that suits you.