With 30 million suffering from snoring in the UK, it's very likely that you know (or have slept near) someone who snores. While often characterised as simply an irritating habit, snoring can be a real problem for many.
Caused by the vibration of tissues in your throat that relax when you sleep, snoring can disrupt your own sleep cycles and lead to chronic fatigue. Although occasional snoring may not be cause for alarm, for consistent snorers it may be damaging to their health.
Snoring is also a common symptom of sleep apnoea, a more dangerous chronic sleep disorder characterised by your airways becoming obstructed as you sleep which limits the oxygen that can get into your blood as a result and leads to fragmented sleep. Often the cause of snoring comes down to the way we are built, with people with narrower airways more likely to suffer than others. However, there are ways of minimising the impact of snoring and helping you (and those around you) get a better night’s sleep.
Sleep On Your Side
People who snore often sleep on their backs in what is called the supine position. This is a problem as it causes your tongue and throat tissues to fall back and block your airways. The easiest solution is to try to sleep on your side, if possible. In the past, one popular way to prevent snorers from rolling onto their backs was to sew tennis balls into the back of their pyjamas. A less uncomfortable idea would be to arrange some large pillows behind your back whilst your on your side so that they keep you from rolling over. After a few weeks of this sleeping on your side will become a habit.
Elevate Your Bed Head
While lifting just your head with a pillow can block your airways, elevating the top end of your bed (and therefore the upper half of your body) can actually open your airways by moving your tongue forward.
Sing Sing Sing
Eating well and increasing exercise is often the first port of call for improving any sleep condition, but for snoring in particular training your throat and tongue could actually improve your snoring. One way to do this is through singing because it increases muscle control. If you don’t fancy yourself a soprano you could also try going through the five vowel sounds - a, e, i, o and u - for a few minutes each day as this has a similar effect of strengthening muscles in the throat and soft palate that cause snoring when slack.
Maintain A Healthy Lifestyle
As excess weight is a leading cause of snoring, it’s important to be eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise as this will decrease most snoring significantly - who knows, it may even stop altogether!
And lastly, talk to your doctor about other treatments. If you’ve tried everything but are still struggling with your snoring it may be time to visit your GP to discuss further treatments. These could include nasal dilators that hold open your nose, chin straps that prevent your mouth from falling open as you sleep, or even a mandibular advancement device that is worn during sleep to bring your tongue forward. Your practitioner can also rule out the possibility of an apnea. If you do not suffer from any issues as a result of snoring, ear plugs for your partner might be a quick fix option.
Dr. Verena Senn, in-house sleep expert at Emma, gives tips to help alleviate snoring.