the causes of snoring and how to stop it

Pretty much everyone will snore at some point. In most instances, it’s more an annoyance than anything serious. What causes snoring? And how do you stop snoring from affecting both you and your partner?

The causes of snoring

There are some common factors which can cause you to snore. The biggest culprits are:

• Age: With age, our throat narrows. Combined with decreased muscle tone, this can cause snoring.

• Weight: Being overweight increases the risk of snoring due to fat combined with poorer muscle tone around the neck and throat.

• Sex: Men are more prone to snoring due to narrower airways.

• Genetics: Your likelihood of being a snorer is also down to genetic factors such as enlarged adenoids or physical build.

• Nasal and Sinus Problems: Temporary, e.g. colds, and other nasal and sinus problems, can trigger snoring as inhalation becomes more problematic.

• How You Sleep: Lying on your back causes greater obstruction to your throat leading to snoring, sleeping on your side can be better.

These are the most common reasons for snoring. However, there are some rare instances where there may be a more serious problem, the most significant of which is called sleep apnoea. This can be a serious condition. If you are gasping or feeling like you are choking in your sleep, being affected by extreme tiredness during the day, or suffering from any other breathing difficulty, you should pay a visit to your GP to rule out serious causes of snoring.

How to stop snoring

The solutions to snoring will depend on why you are snoring. Therefore, you may need to have a careful think about why you are snoring and particular lifestyle factors. It may be a combination of reasons. Investigating when you snore can help. You may find it helpful to recruit your partner to give you valuable insight, or even a sleep camera if you sleep alone. Look for the position you’re in, and whether you’re snoring with your mouth open or closed.

Before considering any of the range of products on the market for stopping snoring, there is a range of first-line actions which may stop snoring in its tracks. Consider trying these:

• Change your position: Try raising your head with an additional pillow or two. This will change the position of your tongue in relation to your throat and potentially alleviate snoring. Alternatively, try to sleep on your side in preference to your back. Sleep habits can be hard to break. The NHS recommends taping a tennis ball to the back of your sleepwear to encourage you to sleep on your side. The new position will soon become a habit.

• Keep your airways clear: If you feel stuffy or blocked up then try saline rinses before bed, along with a good blow of the nose, to unblock the airways. Natural decongestants such as menthol can also help although some people find these can be drying and therefore add to the problem.

• Humidify: For this reason, it can be helpful to alleviate dry throats which can cause snoring by humidifying the bedroom slightly. Try putting a damp tea towel near a radiator to keep the air moist.

• Stop smoking: Smoking hugely increases the chances of snoring because it irritates the membranes which then block the airways.

• Avoid alcohol before sleep: Alcoholic drinks shortly before bed don’t help the quality of your sleep. Alcohol relaxes the throat muscles, and this can make breathing more difficult leading to snoring. The same is true of sedatives such as sleeping pills.

• Lose weight: A notable lifestyle change which will improve snoring is to lose weight. By reducing the weight held around your neck, you’ll minimise your likelihood of snoring.

• Consider your diet: Certain foods are known for increasing your phlegm production and therefore increasing your chances of snoring. Try to limit wheat, dairy, soy and sugar in the evening to reduce snoring.

• Exercise: Through toning your whole body you also tone the muscles in your throat. This helps promote strength so that when you lie down and relax to sleep, the airways don’t narrow to the point of snoring.

If you’ve tried these self-help snoring remedies and not seen improvement, you’re concerned that your snoring problem is more serious, or your snoring is having a large negative impact on your or your partner’s wellbeing, then it may be worth a visit to your GP. A GP may be able to treat you themselves or refer you to a specialist. Medical snoring strategies include Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) and custom devices.

It’s worth taking some time to solve your snoring problem so that you can go back to having a great night’s sleep.

Please bear in mind this is not to be taken as medical advice, if you need medical advice please speak to your GP.