Snoring is an extremely common condition that can occur at any age, although it is most prevalent in people aged between 40 and 60. It is estimated that approximately one in four people in the UK snore on a regular basis and it affects more men than women. Cases can vary from infrequent, quiet snoring to louder, nightly episodes. While not usually considered a serious health risk, severe snoring can lead to disrupted sleep, increase your risk of further health problems and have a detrimental impact on your overall health and quality of life.
Why does snoring happen?
The distinctive sound associated with snoring is caused by the soft tissues vibrating in the nose and throat when people breathe during sleep. When you fall asleep, your airways collapse slightly and become narrower, which changes the airflow and makes the soft tissues vibrate. Snoring can also be triggered if you are suffering from a cold or have swollen tonsils.The roof of the mouth, back of the tongue, nasal passages and tonsils can all be affected.
People tend to snore when they are in a deep sleep and symptoms can be made worse by lying on your back. If you are overweight, drink alcohol regularly or smoke, you are at a greater risk of developing the condition.
The type of sound that is made will depend on the source of the vibration. For example, if it is coming from the nose, it is usually a lot quieter than when it originates from the mouth. However, in most instances, snoring is caused by a combination of areas in the throat, mouth and nose that are vibrating or blocked.
What are the symptoms?
Snoring is a noticeable sound, such as a grunting or rattling, made when someone is sleeping. Medical experts diagnose the severity of the condition via a grading system which has three levels. Grade one is infrequent, relatively quiet snoring that usually has no related health problems or breathing difficulties. Grade two is more regular snoring which can be accompanied by some breathing problems that may have a negative impact on sleep quality. Grade three is when someone snores loudly every night. Many people who suffer from grade three snoring also have the related health condition sleep apnoea, where the airways become blocked, bringing them into a lighter sleep or waking them up completely. These recurrent sleep disturbances can make you feel fatigued the following day and can hinder your ability to carry out routine activities.
When should you see a GP?
While not usually a cause for concern, if left untreated, snoring can get worse over time. Not only can it cause the muscles in your throat to become damaged and weakened, but it can also result in long-term sleep problems that can have harmful consequences. For example, feelings of tiredness during the day can affect your concentration and make you more prone to accidents. As well as having potentially dangerous effects on the snorer themselves, it can also cause relationship problems by keeping partners awake at night.
If your snoring is making it difficult for you to function properly during the day or causing tension in your relationship, you should seek medical advice from your GP. You should also consult a healthcare professional if it is causing symptoms such as poor memory, headaches, mood swings, anxiety, depression or loss of libido. If you wake up in the night struggling to breathe or choking, seek medical assistance right away.
What can be done to alleviate the symptoms?
If lifestyle factors are believed to be causing snoring, healthcare experts will normally recommend that sufferers make some simple lifestyle changes. For example, losing weight, cutting down your alcohol consumption and stopping smoking can all help to alleviate symptoms. If none of these lifestyle changes have the desired effect, there are a range of devices that can be used to control symptoms, such as nasal strips, chin strips, dilators or vestibular shields. For extreme cases, a surgical procedure may be recommended by a medical professional.
How can adjustable beds help?
An adjustable bed can help to tackle some of the symptoms associated with snoring. By allowing you to adjust the position of your bed, it can help to ease pressure in your throat and stop your tongue from falling back in your mouth. The condition is generally worse when sleeping on your back, so changing to a side position or sleeping with your head slightly elevated can reduce the pull of gravity on your neck and help prevent snoring.
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