It’s always mortifying when you’re sitting at the breakfast table and someone breaks the news you’d been snoring all night.
And at times of the year where you’re likely to be snoozing in someone else’s spare room – or on their sofa after Christmas dinner – what can you do to have a quiet kip?
Nearly everyone snores now and again, and Kim Ah-See, a consultant ENT, head and neck surgeon at BMI Albyn Hospital in Aberdeen, has shared some tips for reducing your chances.
How to stop snoring: Is it the way I’m built?
Research shows men are more likely to snore than women, partly because of their larger body shape.
Snoring is caused by things in your mouth, throat or airways vibrating while you’re asleep.
For men, their larynxes tend to be lower down, causing them to generally have thicker necks, and more tissues and fat deposits on their airways.
As a result, people who snore are often advised to lose weight.
However, someone with a small jaw is also more likely to snore, as the shape of their head will push their tongue further back in their head while they sleep.
Children can also snore sometimes too, which is often a sign they have enlarged tonsils or adenoids – small lumps above the roof of the mouth that help shield the body from bacteria.
What are the options?
Mr Ah-See says it’s common for people to be sawing logs overnight if they’ve gained weight, and the problem tends to get worse as people age.
He recommends his patients lose weight and cut back on alcohol and cigarettes.
Smoking irritates the membranes in the nose and throat which can cause airways to block.
Meanwhile alcohol relaxes these tissues and muscles, meaning your body has to pull in air more forcefully – again increasing the chances of snoring.
While it might not be the first person you’d think of when looking for advice, Mr Ah-See says your dentist might be able to help further.
“It can also be worthwhile speaking to your dentist about a mandible advancement device,” he said.
“It is a custom-made splint or mouthguard that fits over the upper and lower teeth, which is designed to move your jaw into a forward position while you sleep.
“This position will expand your airway, helping you breathe better and possibly reduce snoring.”
What else could I try?
- Check the room isn’t too warm – stuffy air can make potential allergies or congestion worse.
- Treat your blocked nose – doctors recommend the likes of sprays, nasal douching and antihistamines for this.
- Try to avoid sedatives – these can have the same relaxing effect as alcohol, increasing the chances of snoring.
Should I be worried about my snoring?
One of Mr Ah-See’s colleagues, consultant ENT surgeon Wale Olarinde, said most people seek help for snoring because it disturbs their loved ones at night.
But he said the real reason you should inquire could be far more serious.
“Ironically, there is a more sinister potentially life-threatening condition associated with severe snoring,” he said.
“For example, obstructive sleep apnoea where there is reduced flow of air into the lungs during sleep.
He detailed some of the symptoms that should give cause for concern.
“If you notice undue morning headaches, daytime tiredness, difficulty concentrating, unexplained mood changes or your partner has noticed you stopping breathing at night, it is important to seek professional help.”