April 20th marks the start of National Stop Snoring Week
Snoring is the distinctive sound made by vibrations of the soft palate and other tissue in the mouth, nose and throat. It is caused by turbulence which occurs due to a partial blockage that may be located anywhere from the tip of the nose to the vocal cords.
During waking hours muscle tone keeps the airway in good shape. When we sleep our throat muscles relax and this decrease in tone can cause airways to narrow and vibrate.
Though it can certainly feel like your partner is doing it to annoy you, no-one snores deliberately, and unfortunately it can’t be cured. But it can be controlled. The key to control is to find out the cause of your particular snoring. Snoring can be related to the tongue, nose, mouth, or it can be multi-factorial.
Historically it was considered to be a male problem, but it actually affects males to females in the ratio of 2:1. Women tend to under-report and fail to seek help due to embarrassment because even in the 21st century it’s considered ‘unladylike’ to snore! The risk factors for snoring are similar in women to men: being overweight, smoking, and alcohol are common factors, but women also snore more following the menopause and it’s one of the symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Snoring is often considered a joke, but it can have a devastating effect on people. Sleep deprivation (both the snorer and their partner) is physically and mentally debilitating and can lead to illness as well as relationship breakdown.
Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a particularly dangerous side-effect of snoring, defined as the cessation of airflow during sleep, preventing air from entering the lungs caused by an obstruction. It is considered clinically significant if a person stops breathing for more than 10 seconds each time and if occurs more than 5 times every hour. OSA only happens during sleep. When you experience an episode of apnoea during sleep your brain will automatically wake you up, usually with a very loud snore or snort, in order to breathe again. People with OSA can experience wakening episodes many times during the night and consequently feel very sleepy during the day.
If you are excessively sleepy during the day and feel irritable or restless, you may be suffering from OSA. Your partner may point out that your snoring is loud, often interrupted by pauses and gasps. You might fall asleep at work, whilst driving, or during conversations. You might be forgetful and irritable and suffer with morning headaches. Not everyone who has these symptoms will have sleep apnoea but if you suffer with them a lot, you should seek advice from a medical professional.
The British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association (BSSAA) has a very helpful website packed with advice and useful questionnaires and information about all aspects of snoring. They even sell approved anti-snoring devices.
The web address is britishsnoring.co.uk
Here’s to a peaceful night’s sleep!