Can’t sleep? Try these anti-snoring devices and get a good night’s kip.
Plagued by your partner’s snoring and desperate for a good night’s kip? If you’re the perpetrator or it’s your other half who sounds like a cat strangling a steam train at night, you are not alone. Up to 40 per cent of adults in the UK are believed to snore when they sleep, so that’s around 15 million people – and plenty more who suffer from lack of sleep as a result.
But snoring isn’t just a problem for the millions of sleep-deprived partners forced to seek refuge in the spare room every night. As well as putting a strain on relationships, snoring caused by obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) can have serious health consequences for the sufferer, too.
We spoke to Consultant ENT Surgeon Michael Oko about why people snore, when to worry and the best snoring remedies to try:
What is snoring?
The sound we recognise as snoring is the vibration of soft tissue structures located in the upper airway (soft palate, uvula, tongue base, nasopharynx) and usually occurs when you draw in breath.
‘When we are awake, we have enough muscle tone to keep our airway open,’ explains Oko. ‘But when we sleep, we lose muscle tone and the tongue, throat and roof of the mouth relax, causing the loose tissue in the throat to sag, which narrows the airways. For some, this reduced breathing space causes the soft tissue in the air passages to vibrate, which results in snoring.’
Common snoring causes
What makes people snore? The reasons why people snore are many and varied. Snoring is part of a spectrum of sleep disordered breathing (SDB) problems, with simple snoring at one end and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) at the other.
Not every snorer sounds the same – there’s the freight train impersonator, pneumatic drill, and wounded walrus to name but three – and it turns out that people snore for a variety of reasons. So why do some of us snore and not others?
Being overweight is the most obvious reason for snoring, but a combination of factors can play a part. The following are common causes of snoring:
- Being overweight, smoking and drinking alcohol are big red flags for snoring.
- Some snorers have an inherited airway or nasal deformity that pre-disposes to snoring.
- A blocked nose caused by a twisted septum can lead to loud slumber.
- Nasal congestion due to allergies or polyps can cause you to snore.
- The size of your tonsils can impact snoring.
- Having a small jaw, which means the tongue is squashed and tends to fall backwards during sleep, can predispose you to snoring.
- Your cross-bite can lead to snoring.
- A longer than usual uvula – the little piece of flesh that hangs down from the rear portion of the soft palate, can impact snoring.
- Other reasons for snoring include increasing age, a narrow airway that is prone to collapse, abnormal craniofacial anatomy and sedating medications.
When should you take snoring seriously?
Although snoring is common it’s often related to other health conditions, so if you frequently keep your partner awake at night you should take steps to resolve your snoring problem.
Although many snorers believe they sleep well, the fact that they are snoring causes fragmented sleep resulting in feeling unrefreshed in the morning, headaches, exhaustion and interpersonal difficulties.
Left unaddressed snoring may also develop into obstructive sleep apnoea, which is more difficult to treat.
Left unaddressed snoring may also develop into obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), which is more difficult to treat and is associated with several health risks. In addition to snoring, people with OSA may experience daytime fatigue, headaches, short term memory loss and depression.
What’s more, people with OSA are at risk of developing conditions, such as high blood pressure (hypertension), type II diabetes, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome and increased risk of cardiovascular disease and depression, so it is worth getting checked out.
The Stop Bang sleep apnea questionnaire
Concerned you or your partner might be at risk of OSA? Take the Stop Bang Sleep Apnea Questionnaire to gauge how serious your snore problem is.
If you score more than three in the questionnaire then you should see your GP for advice. If you score more than five, then your doctor should consider sending you to see a specialist for a sleep study. This will tell the specialist if you have simple snoring, or mild, moderate or severe sleep apnoea.
If you think you might be at risk of OSA, speak to your GP. If you’re simply a loud snorer, try the below snoring remedies.
How to stop snoring
Depending on what type and how bad a snorer you are, try the following snoring remedies to help you stop snoring and learn to sleep like a baby:
- Make simple lifestyle changes
The first step to fixing your snoring problem should be simple lifestyle adjustments. If you’re overweight and/or drink and smoke, your snoring problem is a big red flag that it’s time to address your health and make some positive lifestyle changes. Embark on a weight loss plan and consider quitting or cutting down booze and cigarettes and you stand a strong chance of drastically reducing your snoring problem. Avoiding sedative medications will also help, as they cause respiratory depression and make you snore deeper and louder.
- Switch up your sleeping position
Sleeping on your side can impact your snoring levels, as people tend to snore more when they sleep on their back. If you can’t help rolling onto your back at night (and your partner is fed up of trying to push you onto your side) try an anti-snoring t-shirt. It’s essentially a t-shirt with an inflatable cushion insert to prevent you from rolling over in your sleep, but rumour has it taping a tennis ball to your pyjamas can have equally successful results.
- Buy an anti-snore pillow
The science is sketchy when it comes to anti-snore pillows but if you’re a light snorer with no underlying health conditions then it might help. Anti-snore pillows are ergonomically designed with an S shaped inner foam to help reduce snoring and anecdotally many snorers have reported promising results.
- Try a Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD)
If you snore because your tongue drops to the back of your throat while you sleep, this could be creating an obstruction which makes the airway vibrate. Some snorers with this problem have success with a Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD) which is worn while sleeping. It works by holding your lower jaw slightly forward to pull your tongue forward, as it is attached to the back of your jaw, preventing the upper airway from collapsing.
As a result, air is able to flow more freely, reducing soft tissue vibration. The device can be used for simple snoring and mild to moderate sleep apnoea. The cheapest ones are self-fitted after softening in hot water, but the best results (with a 70% success rate) are achieved from having a specialist dentist fit the device.
- Invest in internal nasal dilator external nasal strips
Some people’s nostrils tend to collapse when they breathe through their nose. You can find out if you’re one of them with this simple test:
- Look in a mirror and take a deep.
- Rapidly sniff in with your mouth closed.
- If the nostril collapses, then a nasal dilator may be helpful.
A nasal dilator is a small and ‘springy’ bit of plastic that holds open the nostrils, making it easier to breathe. If you don’t like the idea of wearing something inside your nose, nasal strips are another good option. These are a bit like sticking plasters that you fix over your nose to help open up the nostrils. Like nasal dilators, these are best for mild snoring.
Alternatively try a Mute snoring nasal device, which gently stents and dilates the nasal airways allowing snorers to breathe more easily through their nose.
- Treat nasal allergies/polyps
If your nose is blocked, your mouth will open and you are more likely to snore. If allergies are to blame for your nasal blockage, it is worth treating these with a combination of topical nasal steroid sprays with a non-sedating antihistamine. Often you can buy these over the counter at a chemist or get them from your GP on prescription.
- Get a CPAP machine
If you have moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnoea, or you’ve tried other snoring remedies without success, a CPAP machine may help. A study of 15,325 patients carried out between 2008 and 2016 found that treatment with CPAP was associated with a greater reduction in symptoms of daytime sleepiness and with improved quality of life, mood, and attendance at work.
A CPAP machine delivers a continuous flow of air through a mask, which you wear over your nose/or nose and mouth at night. The machine senses snoring sounds and apnoeas (pauses in breathing) and automatically increases air pressure to counteract them.
To use a CPAP machine, you’ll need a prescription from a sleep apnoea specialist. The new machines are very quiet and certainly less noisy than your snoring. The mask can take some getting used to, though you should have a range of masks to try. Most people love them and find it helps them – and their partner – to get a better night’s sleep.
- Surgery for snoring
Surgical treatments for snoring are available but very limited. Nasal surgery will not cure snoring but can be beneficial in improving nasal breathing, which in turn will make snoring treatments easier to use.
Surgical options for snoring should be reserved for those with significant structural abnormalities of the upper airway, eg large tonsils and adenoids (rarely in adults) and craniofacial deformities. There are procedures designed to increase the upper airway size, involve laser resection of the soft palate and uvula. However, they are suitable for only a small minority of snorers and cannot be guaranteed to be long-lasting.