A complete guide to dealing with snoring

It’s 3am. It’s dark outside, and you’ve busted your butt all day at work. It is definitely, definitely sleepy time.

HURRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH.

Oh god, not again.

HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH.

Sweet Jesus, don’t let this go on.

HURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH.

This is going to be a long, long night.

Snoring is a pain in the backside. It really is. Even the most mild-mannered pacifist can be sent into a murderous rage by a partner who relentlessly snores. It is the all-knowing hate-builder with no care for mercy or the fact that you haven’t slept in about a month.

Which is why…

… we’ve put together this report looking at snoring. What it is, what causes it, and how best you can end the relentless T-rex-like rumbling emanating from the pillow next to you. Of course, if you’re the T-Rex noise maker, then keep reading: this guide is for you, too.

What the hell is snoring?

The all-knowing eye that is the Penguin English Dictionary describes ‘snore’ as:

‘To breathe with a rough hoarse noise during sleep’.

The mighty Wikipedia, meanwhile, has it down as:

‘The vibration of respiratory structures and the resulting sound, due to obstructed air movement during breathing while sleeping’.

So, to the rest of us, snoring is essentially the noise air makes whilst moving through obstructed areas in throat. (Yes, genius; that means it’s a bit like a mouth fart. Proud of that, are you?)

What are the consequences of snoring?

The chances are that, if you’re reading this, you already know the answer! However, for those unsure how far the effects go, here’s the list. Amongst other things, snoring has been shown to cause:

  • Sleep deprivation. Obviously.
  • Drowsiness during the day. Because of all the not-sleeping.
  • Irritability. No-one who doesn’t sleep is in a good mood, even if they’ve had half a Colombian mountainside’s worth of coffee.
  • Lack of focus. Ditto. If Red Bull gives you wings, snoring rips off the wings and throws them in the bin. Then spits on them. No wings for you: a lack of sleep means you’re inefficient. 
  • Decreased libido. Ha, didn’t see this coming did you? (If you’ll pardon the expression). Yes, the sheer knackered-ness that snoring causes can lead to serious lack of interest in hopping on the good food and doing the bad thing.

There have also been suggestions that snoring could be solidly linked to both heart attacks (with which it shares a positive correlation of around 34 per cent) and strokes (67 per cent).  So, to paraphrase the legend that is Dr Perry Cox, it could lead to a serious case of deadness.

The other kicker is that various studies have shown snoring to negatively affect married couples. Couples where a snorer had their problems fixed reported significant improvements to their relationship. 

How can snoring be treated?

There are a lot of potential treatments for snoring, the majority of which are based around trying to clear the airways as much as possible. Here, then, are our key treatments for minimising snoring:

Lifestyle changes

Don’t look like that; a doctor will tell you the same thing! Yes, there’s no getting round the fact that positive lifestyle changes remain a good way to cut down those nasal rumbles. These include:

  • Losing weight. Fat deposits in the throat and neck are a common cause of snoring.
  • Not drinking before bed or smoking. Yes, really. This isn’t the forties and you’re not in the Brat Pack.
  • Regular exercise. It helps with the weight loss, and can help strengthen the muscles in the neck.

Anti-snoring devices

If lifestyle changes don’t have a positive effect (Yes, you do have to try them first.  Yes, including the weight loss. No, you can’t just ‘give this one a miss’.) then there are a number of devices that can help to prevent snoring. They aren’t, unfortunately, usually available on the NHS (though it’s worth asking if your case is more extreme), but are usually available at most pharmacies. These include:

  • Earplugs.

We’ll come on to the more specific items in a minute, but first things first, it’s worth highlighting just how good modern earplugs are. For a fraction of the money that you’ll spend on the other devices on this list, you can instantly drown out nearly every single bit of rumbling from the sleeper next door. Modern earplugs are also seriously comfortable: you can leave them in all night, and you won’t even realise they’re there.

  • Nasal devices

On some occasions, snoring may occur through the nasal airway rather than the ones in the throat. If that’s the case, then nasal strips or dilators can help to reduce the noise. Nasal strips are small strips of tape that pull the nostrils apart, allowing more air to get through. (They’re awesome if you’ve got a blocked up nose, too!).

Nasal dilators are a small plastic or metal device that pushes your nostrils apart from the inside. Needless to say, they are not great if you’ve got a blocked up nose. Ewwww.

  • Oral devices

If your snoring is coming from your mouth, then chin strips or a vestibular shield can both make a positive impact:

Chin strips are strips of tape placed under the chin designed to stop the mouth falling open when you sleep, keeping the rumbles locked away!

A vestibular shield is a plastic device inserted into the mouth. It looks similar to a rugby-style gum-shield, but blocks off the flow of air into the mouth, forcing air to travel through the nose instead.  As with the nasal devices, the choice is almost down to which one you find the most comfortable and effective.

  • A Mandibular Repositioning Splint (MRS)

On some occasions, snoring can be caused by the base of the tongue vibrating. If that’s the case, then an MRS can be a valuable tool. It’s similar to a vestibular shield, but is designed to push your jaw and tongue forward, increasing the amount of available space at the back of your throat and reducing the narrowing of the airway. MRS can be purchased from between £30 to £50 from pharmacies. It’s also possible to purchase custom models, but they’re a bit more expensive. An MRS will last around 18 months before it needs to be replaced.

  • Surgery

Obviously the most extreme treatment, but in some cases surgery is the best option. There are a number of surgeries in place that can help to minimise the effects of snoring. It’s worth bearing in mind that surgery can only be taken through the NHS if you can prove that snoring is seriously affecting your quality of life, and if you have tried all the other recommended treatments without success.

     

    Surgery is also considered ineffective for certain snorers, such as nasal snorers or those suffering from sleep apnoea.

    There are four main types of operation:

    • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)
    • Uvulopalatoplasty (UP)
    • Soft palate implants
    • Radiofrequency ablation

    It’s worth noting that surgery really should be considered a last resort. Side effects can vary, and success isn’t guaranteed. In UPPP operations, for instance, snoring is only reduced in 50 per cent of cases.

    Medication

    It’s worth consulting your doctor, as medication can help to treat some of the underlying causes.  If allergic rhinitis (nasal irritation and swelling) is responsible for your snoring, then doctors can prescribe anti-histamines to help treat symptoms. Nasal decongestants can help to minimise nasal snoring.

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