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How to stop snoring

how to stop snoring header lady in bed with her pillow over her ears

Nearly half of UK adults snore, impacting millions of people every night – we spoke with the professionals to learn how you can stop

In the dead of night, in bedrooms across the country, the peaceful calm of slumber is being punctuated by the snorts of snorers and the grumblings of those trying to sleep next to them. According to the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association (BSSAA), 41.5% of the adult population snore. That means snoring affects roughly 30 million people in the UK – both the snorer themselves and their nearest and dearest, who are being kept awake at night. We spoke to ENT surgeons and sleep experts to get their advice on how you or your loved one can stop snoring.

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How to stop snoring: Lifestyle changes

Many people will snore the whole night through and still wake up refreshed and content. This is what is referred to as simple snoring and making some lifestyle changes – getting fit, moderating your alcohol consumption, quitting smoking – can have a huge impact.

Mr Chee Toh is an accredited ENT surgeon with more than a decade of experience. He says: “Both lifestyle and physiological factors certainly do impact how much someone snores. Patterns of when and how much you eat, as well as drink alcohol, are often important factors. Also, regular exercise is known to improve sleep and reduce snoring.”

The BSSAA provides some guidance on sleep hygiene, including having a regular sleep schedule, keeping your bedroom at a temperature between 16 and 18 degrees and leaving at least six hours after you exercise before you go to bed. You should also try to avoid using electronics before bed if you can, as the blue light they emit interrupts the body’s release of melatonin, the sleep hormone.

Maryanne Taylor is a sleep consultant and the Founder of The Sleep Works. She adds that your sleep position can have an impact on snoring: “Sleeping on the back can exacerbate snoring by allowing the tongue and soft tissues in the throat to collapse backwards, so try and sleep on your side to help keep the airway more open,” she suggests.

Snorers may like to investigate anti-snoring mouthpieces, such as mandibular advancement devices that hold the jaw and tongue forward, opening the airway. Alternatively, there are mouthpieces that effectively block the mouth, encouraging nasal breathing. And nasal strips may be similarly effective in reducing snoring by making it easier to breathe through the nose.

There are also anti-snoring pillows, or pillows that encourage side sleeping, though these don’t work for everyone. Of course, having a good mattress that allows you to sleep in all positions is important too.

However, it may be that the rest of your household needs some help too. Taylor suggests that people being kept awake by snorers try wearing earplugs, or deploying a white noise machine. She adds: “You can go to bed before your partner to enter deeper stages of the sleep cycle, reducing the likelihood of being disturbed by snoring. Or sleeping in separate rooms when necessary can be a temporary solution if snoring is significantly impacting sleep quality.”

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How to stop snoring: Age-related concerns

Snoring tends to become more common as we get older and, indeed, it’s estimated that 58% of snorers are 50-59 years of age. Adds Mr Toh: “Part of this is due to lifestyle, but part of this is also due to reduced muscle tone and mass, and changes in the amounts and distribution of body fat. Having a blocked nose and putting on weight are other very common things that can result in snoring.”

How to stop snoring: Allergies and snoring

Your allergies are unlikely to cause snoring but, as Mr Toh explains, “environmental factors may have a role but these are more likely to result in nasal congestion or poor sleep generally which can exacerbate snoring.”

If you suffer from allergies, anti-dust mite hypoallergenic bedding and furnishings might help reduce nasal congestion, letting you breathe easier at night. Air purifiers could help too, if you have seasonal allergies or live in an area where there is pollution.

How to stop snoring: Physiological factors

For the snorer, there may be physiological factors coming into play too. Mr Michael Wareing is a consultant ENT surgeon at St Bartholomew’s and The Royal London Hospitals, as well as The London Clinic on Harley Street. He says: “Problems with adenoids and tonsils causing sleep-disordered breathing are much more common in children, but I have seen markedly enlarged tonsils in adults. You can even hear the change in their voices.”

Mr Toh adds that snoring could also be the result of a deviated nasal septum, small or collapsing nostrils or a bulky soft palate. In such cases, medical intervention could be necessary since the snorer could develop sleep apnoea.

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How to stop snoring: Sleep apnoea

Sleep apnoea is a condition where you momentarily stop breathing while asleep. But how do you know if this is impacting you? Mr Wareing says: “If you are a snorer and are waking up feeling refreshed, there is unlikely to be a problem. However, if you are waking up feeling exhausted, you may be suffering from sleep apnoea and, at that point, it is worth seeking medical advice.”

Your partner might also have heard you stop breathing in the night – partners, family and friends typically spot the symptoms first, though it doesn’t usually require medical attention unless breathing stops for more than 10 seconds at a time and occurs multiple times a night.

Sleep apnoea can be caused by many of the same factors as snoring but can also contribute to health issues like heart problems and high blood pressure, says Mr Toh, as well as grogginess and an inability to concentrate during the day.

He explains: “The treatment for sleep apnoea is usually to wear a mask at night that maintains an air pressure that keeps your upper airways open as you breathe. Weight loss will usually help to reduce your need to wear a mask.” However, surgery may also be necessary.

Everyone is different and so each person needs to evaluate the impact their snoring is having, both on themselves and those in their household, before taking action. Whether lifestyle changes are needed or a consultation with a professional is required, you might not be able to stop snoring immediately but, with research and patience, more restful nights for everyone are possible.

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