We all know someone who’s a heavy snorer, and it’s often fun to tease them about it, but snoring can be serious. If you’re just an occasional snorer, it might annoy your partner, but you don’t need to worry too much. But people who habitually snore heavily can be at risk of severe health problems. From headaches and drowsiness during the day to high blood pressure and higher risks of heart attacks and strokes, chronic snoring is no joke.

What Is Snoring?

Some people have medical conditions or anatomical features that make them inclined to snore. Snoring is also caused by being overweight, smoking, drinking alcohol, sleeping on your back and taking sleeping medication.

The sound you make when you snore is made by the vibration of soft tissue in your upper airway. When these tissues relax, they partially block your airway causing an irregular flow of air.

Sleep Apnoea

When the relaxation of the soft tissue completely closes the airway for 10 seconds or more, it’s classified as apnoea. A partial closure, where airflow is reduced to less than 50%, is called hypopnea. Symptoms of both include loud snoring, laboured breathing, gasping, snorting and night sweats.

Apnoea usually occurs during deep sleep. It deprives your brain of oxygen causing it to either wake you up or pull you into lighter sleep where you breathe more normally. That can repeatedly happen throughout the night. The effect of this disturbance is that you don’t get the deep sleep you need and you feel tired during the day.


What Can You Do?

For a lot of people, control of their snoring is in their own hands.

  • Weight – if you’re overweight, you are more likely to snore so losing weight can help. If you need to lose a lot of weight, get advice from your GP first.
  • Smoking – Ideally you should give up altogether. At the very least, cut down to, as few cigarettes as possible or look at aids to quitting.
  • Alcohol – drinking excessively or close to bedtime, can make snoring worse.
  • Sedatives and sleeping medication can also make you snore. Speak to your GP or pharmacist about alternative ways to help you sleep.
  • Sleeping on your back makes snoring more likely. Try to sleep on your side if possible. If you keep rolling back, use a wedge-shaped pillow to keep you on your side. 

If That Doesn’t Work?

If lifestyle changes don’t help, it’s time to consult your GP. Assessment is available on the NHS and involves typically an overnight stay in hospital. A common treatment is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy. A CPAP machine pumps air through a mask and keeps your airway open. It’s important to understand that these devices don’t cure snoring.

Mandibular Advancement devices are another form of treatment. Looking a bit like a boxer’s gum-shield, they push the lower jaw forward giving more space to breathe. You’ll need to speak to your dentist about whether this is suitable for you.