How to stop snoring
Snoring is a common problem that affects more than 41% of adults.
It can disrupt sleep, reduce quality of life, and have a negative impact on relationships. Find out about the causes of snoring and what you can do to tackle it. What’s more, snoring may have a more serious cause.
What causes snoring?
Snoring happens when the muscles and soft tissues in your throat, soft palate and tongue relax as you sleep, partially blocking your airway and causing the tissues to vibrate as you breath. Several factors cause or exacerbate the airway blockage:
Being overweight or having a large neck.
Sleeping on your back.
Drinking alcohol near to bedtime or taking sleeping tablets or sedatives. This includes some common medications such as antihistamines and painkillers.
Nasal congestion (a blocked nose) encourages mouth-breathing, which leads to snoring.
Smoking irritates the lining of your nose, throat, and airways, causing excess mucous production which leads to congestion.
A small lower jaw or overbite can mean your tongue is more likely to roll back and partially block your airway.
6 top self-help tips to stop snoring
1. Ensure you are a healthy weight for your height
Consult your GP if you’re not sure. You’ll find plenty of advice about diet and exercise on our website, including healthy recipes and articles on fitness for beginners and 10 ways to burn 100 calories.
2. Change your sleeping position
You’re much less likely to snore if you sleep on your side. Try putting a pillow behind your back to stop yourself rolling over, and a pillow between your legs. Some people find using a body pillow or wedge pillow useful to maintain this position. You may find a thicker, firmer pillow is more comfortable and supportive for your head if you switch to side sleeping.
3. Avoid alcohol before bed
It’s best to avoid drinking alcohol for at least four hours before you go to bed, so your body has time to metabolise, or break down, the alcohol. Several common medications have a sedative effect (e.g., codeine, benzodiazepines, and some antihistamines) and may lead to snoring.
4. Keep your nose clear
Nasal congestion can be caused by a cold, sinusitis, allergies, or polyps – fleshy growths in your nasal passages. If you are worried about this, speak to your pharmacist or GP for further advice
5. Give up smoking
The smoke irritates your airways and causes excess mucous production, which leads to congestion. You’ll find lots of tips and advice in our article on how to stop smoking.
6. Improve your sleep hygiene
Getting enough good-quality sleep makes you less likely to snore so cultivate healthy sleep habits, such as going to bed and getting up at regular times, and not eating, drinking alcohol, or using screens too close to bedtime. Try relaxation techniques rather than relying on alcohol, exhaustion or sleeping tablets to get to sleep. Read our article on how to get a good night’s sleep for more advice.
If self-help measures don’t work, then it’s time to consult your GP. If you can, it’s a good idea to bring a video or audio recording of your snoring to show your GP or ask somebody who has heard your snoring to describe it. This will help your GP work out which part of your airway is causing the problem.
In most cases, snoring can be safely improved by making minor lifestyle changes. If these measures do not help, your GP can discuss other options with you including a type of ‘mouthguard’ (a mandibular advancement device), which positions the airway to reduce snoring or referral to see a specialist.
Obstructive sleep apnoea – when it’s more than just snoring
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is breathing disorder characterised by the airway becoming completely blocked for short periods of time while you are asleep. The result is a pause in breathing for up to 30 seconds, often accompanied by loud snoring, gasping, or choking. This usually happens many times each night. OSA can affect anyone but is more common if you’re male, overweight and in an older age group. It’s also possible to have OSA even if you don’t snore. Symptoms include:
Making loud snorting, gasping or choking noises in your sleep
Not breathing for a short period, then suddenly waking
Not feeling refreshed in the morning
Often feeling sleepy or falling asleep easily during the day.
Speak to your GP if you fall asleep easily in the daytime without intending to, and you have interruptions to your breathing or choking episodes at night. Sometimes people with this problem become so sleepy they can fall asleep while driving. If this happens to you, contact your GP straight away and don’t drive until the problem is resolved.
If you think you may have OSA, it’s important to ask for help as the condition has a serious impact on both physical and mental health. Constant interruptions to night-time breathing can make concentration difficult when awake, as well as causing headaches, irritability, and even depression in some cases. It also puts a strain on your cardiovascular system and over the longer term this can lead to high blood pressure and heart problems, as well as raising your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
How is obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) managed?
Further tests are required before a diagnosis of OSA can be made, and this will start with a visit to your GP. At this visit you can expect to be asked in detail about your symptoms, and undergo a basic examination including measuring your weight, blood pressure and examinations of your nose and throat.
If your GP thinks you might have OSA, they will often refer you for a sleep study (polysomnography) in which sensors monitor your breathing and activity for one night. This is either conducted in your own home or in a specialised unit.
Mild OSA can often be treated in the same way as snoring. But if you’re found to have moderate to severe OSA, you may be offered a home continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. This is a small device with a mask or nose piece that uses pressurised air to ensure your airway does not collapse when you fall asleep.
The good news is, whether you have mild snoring or severe OSA, you can often achieve a huge improvement by following the simple lifestyle measures above.
This article was written with medical advice from Dr Toby Donati, Chief Medical Officer at Bluecrest Wellness. Benenden Health are proud to partner with Bluecrest Wellness, to provide more affordable and convenient health assessments for our members.
If you’re worried about your sleep health, speak to your GP. Benenden Health members can call the GP 24/7 helpline on 0800 414 8247 for advice.