But while snoring is common and rarely has a serious impact on our health, it can be disruptive for those who snore — and often more significantly, for those sleeping nearby. Perhaps your partner has started complaining that your frequent snoring is keeping them awake at night, or it’s loud enough for family members or guests to hear in the next room.
If that’s the case, you might be curious as to what's causing your snoring. And you’ll almost certainly be wondering what you can do about it (if you’re not, your partner undoubtedly will be). So, let’s look at what causes us to snore, whether there’s a reason to be concerned by snoring, and how to help prevent it from happening.
What causes snoring?
When we fall into a deep sleep, our muscles naturally relax. This includes the muscles in the throat, and when these muscles relax the airway can become partially blocked, which causes it to vibrate. This vibration is what we refer to as snoring.
But snoring doesn’t affect everyone in the same way. Nearly all of us snore on occasion, yet some people never (or at least rarely) do, while others are chronic snorers. Some might snore loudly, while others do so almost inaudibly. Whether or not you snore — and the frequency and volume of your snoring — can depend on a number of factors.
Snoring can be caused by:
- Your sleep position (for example, if you normally sleep on your back)
- Nasal congestion (for example, if you have a cold or suffer from allergies)
- Alcohol consumption or smoking
- Being overweight
- Sleep deprivation
- The anatomy of your mouth (for example, having a low, soft palate or large tonsils may narrow your airway)
- A family history of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)
When is snoring a concern?
Snoring is very rarely a cause for concern — although the person who sleeps beside you may say otherwise! Whether you simply live with it or seek preventative treatment will depend on the impact it has on you and those around you: if you live alone, for instance, it may not be necessary to address the issue, whereas if your snoring is disrupting the sleep of others in your household, it’s probably time to do something about it.
But while snoring rarely has any serious health implications, a more extreme course of treatment may be advised if it’s the result of something called obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). OSA is a breathing disorder that causes the sufferer to repeatedly stop and start breathing during sleep. This is because the throat muscles intermittently relax, causing the airway to become blocked. Loud yet infrequent snoring is often a telltale sign of OSA.
Other signs and symptoms of OSA may include:
- Waking abruptly, often accompanied by gasping or choking
- Waking with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Frequent morning headaches
- Excessive fatigue during the daytime
- Mood changes, such as increased irritability
How to prevent snoring
If your snoring is becoming an issue for you or those around you, fortunately there are a number of medicinal and at-home remedies which can prevent — or at least reduce — snoring. These include:
- Using an anti-snoring spray. Using a throat spray such as Nytol Anti-Snoring Throat Spray just before bed helps to lubricate the throat and prevent the vibration that results in snoring.
- Treating nasal congestion. Snoring can often be a result of nasal congestion caused by colds, allergies or flu, in which case you could try a treatment such as Sudafed Decongestant Tablets to clear catarrh and relieve the pressure on your sinuses.
- Changing your sleep position. You’re more likely to snore if you usually sleep on your back (since this allows your tongue to fall back into your throat and partially obstruct the airway), so try to sleep on your side where possible.
- Reducing alcohol intake. Alcohol is a muscle relaxant, which can increase the likelihood and severity of snoring. Try to avoid alcoholic drinks for at least two hours before you go to bed, and limit your overall intake of alcohol.
- Quitting smoking. Smoking cigarettes can also relax the muscles, leading to an increased likelihood of snoring. Aside from several other health benefits, stopping smoking can help to prevent snoring.
- Losing weight. People who are overweight typically have more tissue at the back of the throat, which can contribute to increased snoring. Losing weight through exercise and a healthy diet may help reduce snoring.
- Reducing your use of painkillers. Many medicinal painkillers are also muscle relaxants, so you should try to limit your use of these — particularly before bedtime.
If your snoring is accompanied by OSA (or if it’s causing severe disruption to you or a partner), it’s best to refer yourself to a GP, as they may recommend a more extreme treatment such as a dental mouthpiece or upper airway surgery.
So, while most of us snooze away blissfully at night, we might be unaware of our snoring habits. But those who sleep nearby might not be so lucky, especially if our snoring is particularly loud or frequent. If your snoring is causing undue disruption to you or your partner, try some of the methods above to help you both get a better night’s rest.