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01 Apr 2010
blackmores naturopath

Blackmores

Snoring

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About one in five people snore, with men more likely to be affected than women. Although it isn’t harmful, snoring is sometimes a symptom of underlying health problems, such as sleep apnoea.

Symptoms

  • A loud grunting sound emanating from the mouth or nose when asleep.
  • Sometimes the noise is so loud that it wakes the snorer up, leading to disturbed sleep and daytime fatigue.
  • Snoring may cause insomnia for the snorer’s bed partner, and this can be a source of relationship stress.
  • Along with snoring, irregular breathing patterns and periodic episodes in which breathing stops during sleep may be symptomatic of obstructive sleep apnoea. Sufferers tend to wake up gasping for air, and may do so hundreds of times a night, although later they may not remember doing so. The sufferer may experience daytime fatigue due to the poor quality of sleep. It is common for the sufferer to remain unaware they have a problem until someone else points it out to them.
  • Sleep apnoea is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease (e.g. patients with sleep apnoea are more likely to have high blood pressure and to suffer from stroke).

Causes

The noise of snoring is caused by vibrations of the tissues at the back of the throat (the uvula and soft palate), as inhaled and exhaled air move past them.

In obstructive sleep apnoea, the airways momentarily become blocked, and breathing stops, only to re-start with a gasp a few seconds later as the body makes a concerted effort to obtain enough oxygen.

Factors that increase the likelihood of being a snorer or developing sleep apnoea include:

  • Sleeping on your back 
  • Being male 
  • Being obese  or overweight 
  • Having respiratory congestion due to an infection or allergy (e.g. sinusitis, cold, hay fever) 
  • Being 30-65 years old 
  • Using sleeping tablets 
  • Drinking alcohol (especially before bed)

Diet and lifestyle

  • Being overweight is directly linked to snoring  and sleep apnoea, and reducing your body weight is likely to improve your snoring as well as decreasing your risk of cardiovascular disease and other health problems. (Don’t start a new exercise program without consulting your healthcare professional first though).
  • Avoid drinking alcohol, especially in the hours before bed.
  • Alleviating any infections or allergies causing nasal congestion may help to relieve your snoring. 
  • A number of anti-snoring devices are available which reduce snoring by making it easier to breathe through your nose or by exerting positive air pressure through airways. Talk to your healthcare professional for more information.
  • Try to sleep on your side, and always make sure your bedroom is well ventilated (not too humid or dry) and free from potential allergens such as pet hair and dust mites. 
  • Stop smoking.

Important notes

  • If you are waking suddenly during the night gasping for breath, or if someone else tells you they are concerned, consult your healthcare professional.
  • If you are concerned that your prescribed sleeping tablets may be causing sleep apnoea, talk to your healthcare professional. Do not stop taking prescribed medicines without consulting your doctor first.

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