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Snoring

Snoring Information

Why do I snore?

A recent survey found that 40% of the population of England snore. Anyone can snore; but it’s more common if you’re aged 40-60. Men are two times more likely to snore than women, although women are at increased risk during and after menopause.

What causes snoring?

Snoring is caused by the vibration of soft tissue in your upper airway during sleep. When you’re asleep, your airways relax and narrow.  If your airway is narrow, air has to travel more quickly to supply enough oxygen to your lungs.  This increased speed reduces the air pressure within your airways.  This causes the airway to deform or collapse and the tissue to vibrate. It’s these vibrations that are associated with the sound of snoring.

Why do people snore?

In the majority of cases, snoring is caused by a combination of areas in the upper airway and throat being blocked or vibrating.

Snoring can also happen due to congestion of the nasal passages.  This congestion can be due to colds, allergies or a blocked nose and can reduce the volume of air reaching your upper airway. This reduction may be enough on its own to cause snoring or, if your upper airway is has already narrowed, it may make your snoring worse.

Evidence suggests that snoring gets worse when it’s left untreated. Snoring vibrations damage the blood vessels that supply blood to the muscles in your head and neck. If left untreated over several years, this may cause the muscles to weaken.  If these muscles are weak, they can’t keep your airways open enough when you relax during sleep. These same vibrations also cause inflammation of the tissue of your airway and this inflammation can cause long term damage that is slow to repair – even if you take action to reduce your snoring.

Snoring can be a sign of a serious condition called Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA).  This is where your airway collapses, causing you to stop breathing during sleep. You can read more about the condition on our About Sleep Apnoea page.

Is my lifestyle making my snoring worse?

Not all snoring is due to lifestyle factors. There are many different factors that can make you more likely to snore. But, you can reduce the effect these factors have by making some small lifestyle changes. The links below can help you to find out what factors influence your snoring and the changes you can make.

Alcohol and Snoring

Can drinking alcohol cause snoring?

You will have noticed that a night of drinking can cause you to snore, or make your existing snoring worse.  This is because alcohol intensifies muscle relaxation. When you drink alcohol it passes through your digestive system and into your blood. When this blood reaches your brain, it acts as a relaxant. This is because alcohol resembles a substance known as GABA that exists naturally in the brain.

GABA calms and eliminates anxiety.  Your brain confuses alcohol with GABA, and has the same calming effect on your mind and body. The more alcohol you drink, the more your muscles relax.  This includes the muscles and tissues in your airway, making them more likely to vibrate and cause a snoring sound.

Drinking alcohol also dehydrates your body including the mucosal tissue layer of your airway. The more relaxed your airway tissue is, the more likely it is to vibrate.  This leads to more frequent and/or louder snoring.

What can you do?

Don’t drink alcohol for a few hours before bed, especially if you already snore or have sleep apnoea.

If you’re not able do this, there are a few things you can do to at least reduce the influence alcohol has on your snoring. Eating more whilst you are drinking will reduce the amount of alcohol absorbed. Choosing drinks with a lower alcohol content can reduce the amount your muscles relax. This means completely avoiding spirits. These tips will help to reduce the effect alcohol has on your on muscle tissue.  But, the only way to completely stop alcohol causing snoring is to not drink it!

Weight and Snoring

Can being overweight cause snoring?

Overeating and/or lack of exercise will result in an increase in fat around the neck.  This build-up of fat means that you might not have sufficient muscle tone needed to keep your airway open at night.

If your airway relaxes or collapses, it’s more difficult for air to pass through. This leads to the vibration of the soft tissues in your throat that causes the snoring sound. Being overweight can also affect the size of your tongue.  If your tongue is enlarged, there will be less room for your tongue base at the back of your throat. This leads to a blockage in the area between your mouth and throat (the oropharynx) during sleep.

Snoring caused by excess fat is generally found in people with a collar size of 161/2” or greater.

Being overweight is a risk factor for a dangerous sleep disorder; sleep apnoea.  Sleep apnoea sufferers usually snore, and have pauses in breathing during the night.  Untreated sleep apnoea increases your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and depression.  To find out more about the condition, visit our Sleep Apnoea page.

What can you do?

Losing weight can help to reduce your snoring.  Being a healthy weight can help to reduce the fat around your airway. Losing weight can be difficult, but there are lots of resources, including the NHS and your doctor, that can help with diet and exercise tips tailored to your needs.  Losing as little as 5 to 8 pounds can help decrease, if not completely stop snoring in many cases.

Smoking and Snoring

Can smoking cause snoring?

Cigarette smoke can irritate the lining of your nose and throat. Smoking damages and hardens the tissue of your airway and your nasal passages become congested as the smoke causes catarrh (mucus).  The more cigarettes you smoke each day, the worse these problems will get.

What can you do?

The obvious solution is to give up smoking! The NHS offer a great support system for people who want to give up smoking.

Age and Snoring

Why do people snore when they get older?

Although anyone can be a snorer, your risk is increased if you’re over 35. As you get older your body tissue loses its elastic strength and your muscular strength also decreases. You lose muscle tone everywhere, including your throat, making it more likely to collapse or vibrate. As you age, you might not have the tissue or muscle tone needed to keep your airway open during the night. This can mean you are more likely to snore.

What can you do?

Unfortunately, there is no way to stop aging! Getting older will cause muscle tension to decrease, increasing your chances of snoring. But, you can take steps to make sure your tissue and muscle tension does not decrease more than nature intends. These steps include regular exercise, a balanced diet, limiting your alcohol intake, and avoiding smoking. Additionally drinking more water will help hydrate your body tissue – including the mucosal tissue of your airway.

Menopause and Snoring

Can menopause cause snoring?

The menopausal phase of life can contribute to snoring. This is because of the physical and hormonal changes that happen at this time.

During perimenopause (the period before you have obvious symptoms of menopause), levels of hormones such as oestrogen begin to decline. Oestrogen helps to regulate the menstrual cycle and also influences serotonin – a chemical that stimulates tissues and muscles including the tongue and soft palate. As oestrogen levels fall, your body’s ability to prevent your airway from relaxing and collapsing during sleep reduces. This relaxation of the muscles in your airway makes you more likely to snore.

What can you do?

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is one route many women take to relieve symptoms of menopause. This treatment isn’t the right choice for everyone, and is unlikely to be prescribed during perimenopause when snoring can start to worsen.  Snoring relief products like sprays and strips can help to relieve most snoring. If your snoring problem is more severe (if snoring is loud and happening most nights) then a product like the Snoreeze Oral Device is probably what you need.

Medication and Snoring

Can certain medications cause snoring?

If you are taking medication with sedating effects, the short answer is yes. This includes certain types of painkillers, anti-depressants, and sleeping tablets.

Sedatives can relax the soft tissues at the back of your throat and increase your chances of snoring.  Your throat muscles may become so relaxed that your airway does not stay fully open while you sleep.  This narrowing of the airway can lead to a vibration of soft tissues in your throat that causes the snoring sound.

What can you do?

If you take medication that has a sedating effect, you could ask your GP to prescribe an alternative. Please note you should not stop taking prescribed medication without consulting your doctor.

Pregnancy and Snoring

Can pregnancy cause snoring?

Snoring is a relatively common problem during pregnancy, particularly in the third trimester. Edinburgh researchers discovered that women are 2-3 times more likely to snore during pregnancy!  12% of women snored before pregnancy, with 41% snoring during the third trimester.

There are several factors that could cause an increase in snoring during pregnancy. The amount of blood in your body increases, causing your blood vessels to expand. This can make your nasal passages swell, forcing you to breathe through your mouth.  This makes you more likely to snore. Also, the weight gained during pregnancy can increase your chances of snoring. Weight gained in pregnancy can lead to excess fat in your neck.  This can cause your upper airway to narrow, restricting your ability to breathe freely and increasing your chances of snoring.

What can you do?

It is natural to gain weight during pregnancy. However, you can limit the effect weight gain has on your snoring. A healthy diet and active lifestyle can benefit not only you and your snoring, but your baby too. Your Doctor or Midwife will be able to advise you about how much weight it is healthy to gain.

Colds, Allergies and Snoring

Can having a cold or allergy cause snoring?

Colds, a blocked nose, and allergies can all increase your chances of snoring. A cold or a blocked nose can make it difficult, or sometimes impossible, to breathe through your nose. If you don’t have a cold, but your nasal passages feel congested, you may be suffering from an allergy.

Snoring can happen because your nasal breathing is noisy, causing whistling or wheezing sounds. Congestion can also make you breathe through your mouth, increasing your risk of snoring.

What can you do?

If you often suffer from colds, or a blocked nose try to eat a healthy, balanced diet to boost your immune system.

Reducing your allergy risk is a simple way to prevent this type of snoring. One of the most common allergies is a dust allergy. To prevent dust allergies from affecting you, try and keep your home as clean as possible.

If you suffer from hay fever, keep your windows closed during the night.  Wash your clothes more often than usual during the months when your allergy is at its worst.  This will reduce the chance of bringing allergens, such as pollen, into your home.

There are also snoring treatments available, such as Snoreeze Nasal Spray, which can help to decongest your nasal passages. This helps you to breathe freely through your nose, reducing your risk of snoring.

Sleeping Position and Snoring

Can sleeping on your back cause snoring?

Your sleeping position plays an important role during sleep.  It can often make the difference between having a good or bad night’s sleep. Many studies have found sleeping on your back makes you more likely to snore than sleeping on your side. The reason for this is because of how gravity affects the upper airway. When sleeping on your back, gravity makes it more likely that your tongue and soft palate will fall back into your throat. This causes your airway to narrow, restricting your ability to breathe freely. Also if you are carrying excess weight around your neck, sleeping on your back will push excess tissue upwards, restricting your airway. But, if you sleep on your side the airway tends to be more stable and is less likely to collapse.

What can you do?

If you tend to sleep on your back, you should try to avoid this and sleep in a different position. Sleeping on your side is best.  This avoids the tendency for your tongue and soft palate to fall back into your throat and reduces the pressure on your neck.

If you try to sleep on your side but end up rolling onto your back, then you could always try the tennis ball trick. Attach a tennis ball to the back of your pyjama top. Then, if you roll onto your back in your sleep, you will feel uncomfortable and roll back onto your side. This will soon become a habit and you can stop using the tennis ball.  If this doesn’t sound like the option for you, a sleep positioning pillow may help.

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Question

Would you like to take a brief questionnaire to see your sleep aponea risk levels?

Yes
No
Question One of Eight

Complete the following clinically approved screening questionnaire to find out if you are at risk of suffering from sleep apnoea.

Do you snore loudly? (Louder than talking, or loud enough to be heard through closed doors)

Yes
No
Question Two of Eight

Do you often feel tired, fatigued, or sleepy during daytime?

Yes
No
Question Three of Eight

Gender - Are you male?

Yes
No
Question Four of Eight

Has anyone observed you stop breathing during your sleep?

Yes
No
Question Five of Eight

Do you have or are you being treated for high blood pressure?

Yes
No
Question Six of Eight

Body Mass Index (BMI) more than 35?

Yes
No
Question Seven of Eight

Are you over the age of 50?

Yes
No
Question Eight of Eight

Is your neck circumference greater than: Male - 17" or 43cm? Female - 15" or 41cm?

Yes
No
Question Eight of Eight

You are at
risk of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA).