What is snoring?
The noise of snoring is caused by parts of the nose and throat – in particular, the soft palate – vibrating as you breathe in and out. At night, the muscles that help keep your airways open relax and become floppy. This causes the airways to narrow and vibrate more, making snoring more likely.
There are also a number of factors that can make snoring worse:
- Alcohol or sleeping tablets relax the muscles even further.
- Being overweight puts pressure on the airways.
- Colds, allergies, nasal polyps, a damaged or crooked nose can block the nose, causing you to breathe through your mouth.
- Smokers are twice as likely as non-smokers to snore because their airways get inflamed and blocked.
- Sleeping on your back.
You may also be suffering with obstructive sleep apnoea. In this condition, the relaxed throat muscles block the airway briefly hundreds of times each night stopping you breathing and depriving your body of oxygen.
More than 3.5 million people in the UK snore. It’s thought to affect four out of ten men and up to three out of ten women. And, of course, millions of partners and neighbours suffer sleep-disturbed nights as a result.
The following can help reduce the chances of you snoring:
- Avoid drinking alcohol late at night.
- Maintain your ideal weight.
- Raise the head of the bed.
- Sleep on your side (to stop you rolling on to your back, sew a ball in the back of a top to wear in bed or wedge a pillow under your back).
- Keep your nasal passages clear by using a humidifier, inhaling steam or rubbing a few drops of eucalyptus or olbas oil on your pillowcase (antihistamine tablets and/or anti-inflammatory nasal sprays may help; always check with the pharmacist that they’re suitable for you, especially if you’re taking other medicines).
Surgical techniques have improved recently and are more widely available but should be seen as a last resort.
Surgery can be used to remove nasal polyps, straighten crooked noses and cut out floppy soft palate tissue to stop it vibrating. Laser surgery stiffens the palate to reduce vibration. Somnoplasty uses radio frequency energy to shrink the floppy soft palate tissue rather than cutting it out.
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