Not only is snoring a pain for those who share your bed or home, but it can also significantly impact on your quality of sleep or even signal an underlying health issue or sleep disorder, such as sleep apnoea.
This type of condition can cause other problems further down the track if left untreated, so if snoring is a problem, you should make an appointment with your doctor or dentist. They can examine your throat and conduct a sleep assessment if necessary to help diagnose the issue and determine the best treatment option.
Find out more about snoring and sleep apnoea below, so you can improve your quality of sleep and ensure you’re feeling your best!
Why do I snore?
Snoring is caused by the vibration of the tissues in the throat. It’s more common for those who are overweight, have oversized tonsils or other tissue in the back of the throat.
There’ll be a greater chance of you snoring if you:
- Sleep on your back
- Are a smoker
- Are pregnant
- Drink alcohol before bed
- Have blocked airways from a cold or flu, allergies or a sinus condition
- Are taking particular medications
- Are born with a small airway
Is snoring bad for your health?
Many people who snore find that it causes no noticeable issues with their health or energy levels, but for those who find their snoring wakes them up, are constantly tired or feel that it’s difficult to concentrate throughout the day, they may actually have a condition known as obstructive sleep apnoea.
It can impact on your health and life in several ways, with constant tiredness putting you at greater risk of having accidents and also generally not being as productive as you would normally be.
Sleep apnoea can also increase the risk of you developing other serious medical conditions, including:
- Heart attacks
- High blood pressure
What is sleep apnoea?
Obstructive sleep apnoea is caused by the muscles in the throat relaxing while sleeping, which causes the soft tissue in the airway to collapse and close, causing an obstruction that can last for 10 seconds or more.
Symptoms of sleep apnoea include:
- Choking or gasping during sleep
- Waking up with a dry, sore throat
- Tiredness/falling asleep during the day
- Poor concentration or memory
How to stop snoring
If you believe you may be experiencing sleep apnoea, it’s important to make an appointment with an ear, nose and throat doctor or your dentist to get an assessment. They can examine your throat to see if there are signs of sleep apnoea, and can find out if you have any of the common symptoms. If necessary, they can refer you to a sleep clinic to get an overnight sleep study, known as a polysomnogram (PSG) where you’ll be observed by a sleep specialist to determine the severity of the issue, and which treatment will work best for your case.
In addition to lifestyle changes to stop snoring, the main treatments for sleep apnoea are:
- Oral appliances
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
Snoring can be reduced with some modifications to your lifestyle and habits, including:
- Losing weight if obese
- Increasing exercise
- Sleeping on your side with the help of special pillows or wedges which prevent you from rolling on your back
- Quitting smoking
- Reducing alcohol intake, especially right before bed
- Avoiding the use of sleeping pills which can worsen the effects of sleep apnoea
- Treating allergies
If your sleep apnoea isn’t too severe, an oral appliance such as a nightguard can be an easy and effective treatment option. This looks similar to a mouthguard, and helps position the lower jaw slightly forward to keep the airway open to prevent obstruction to your breathing while sleeping. This option is best suited to those with good oral health and no existing issues with their jaw joint.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
More severe sleep apnoea is better treated with CPAP therapy provided by a sleep therapist. This involves wearing a face mask to bed each night that provides a continuous supply of air into the throat to keep it open to allow for consistent breathing.
In rare cases where sleep apnoea is very severe, surgery may be the most suitable treatment in order to enlarge the airways permanently.