How to Stop Snoring and Get a Better Night’s Sleep
Identify what type of snorer you are and reduce the volume and frequency of your snores
I was inspired to write this blog post by two overlapping health awareness events – Stress Awareness Month which is running from 1st – 30th April and National Stop Snoring Week from 20th – 23rd. Having finally admitted that not only do I snore but that I might win in a contest with a baby rhino, I’m keenly aware of the negative effects snoring has on others – like my husband who’s sleep is interrupted at night. I know that my sleep isn’t always the best – on occasion, I’ve even snored myself awake.
Affecting approx 15 million in the UK alone, snoring has an impact in many homes. What if you’ve had enough and want to get your snores under control? What’s the best thing to do?
As I explored this topic, I found there were many more options beyond drinking less alcohol, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy BMI and sleeping on your side. I was surprised to learn there are 3 different causes of snoring which will influence how effective some snoring solutions will be. As I considered the different ways to stop snoring and get a better night’s sleep, here’s what I found.
2 Out Of 5
Classified as a breathing issue rather than a sleep issue, snoring isn’t usually deemed harmful to your health. But a case of chronic snoring may present several hazards – like daytime sleepiness, a lack of focus and concentration, or a frustrated partner who wants to kick you out of bed. Snoring is a common concern, affecting 2 out of 5 adults in the UK – as reported by the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association. That’s a nightime snoring chorus – a snorus? – of around 15 million people. Even if your snoring isn’t troublesome to you, it may stress your partner beyond tears.
What Does Your Snoring Sound Like?
There’s a secret delight in discovering what you get up to as you sleep, and hearing when and how frequently you snore never fails to satisfy. If you’ve ever questioned whether, or how much, you actually snore, there are plenty of sleep-tracker apps that you might use. (If you also talk in your sleep they can be a riot to listen to the following day).
Any of the sleep tracker apps will record all of your night-time emissions. (Yes, this is a polite way of saying you’ll capture conversations, burps and farts, along with your snores.)
I’ve been using SLEEP TALK AND SNORE RECORDER, which is free and available on the iPhone app store. Snore Lab, Snore Report, Snore Control are others to check out.
What Type of Snorer Are You?
Snoring is the sound made when the soft palate and tissue in the upper airway vibrates as you inhale. As your muscle tone reduces and your tongue becomes floppy – typically while you sleep – the space behind your tongue gets smaller. When the movement of air through this narrower channel causes the floppy muscle to vibrate, this is when you snore. I was surprised to realise that there are different types of snoring, depending on which part of your mouth and airway is involved. Identifying whether your snoring originates in your tongue, nose, mouth or a combination will influence which snoring treatments are effective for you. These can include devices to bring your tongue forward, straps to keep your mouth closed or steps to keep your nostrils open.
The British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association have an online quiz. Expect questions such as:
Nose… Looking in a mirror, press the side of one nostril to close it. With your mouth closed, breathe in through your other nostril. Does your nostril tend to collapse?
Mouth breathing… Do you sleep with your mouth open?
Tongue… Stick your tongue out as far as it will go and grip it between your teeth. Now try to make a snoring noise. Is the snoring noise reduced with your tongue in this forward position?
(My husband and I laughed so hard when we attempted this last one!!)
Use their INTERACTIVE SNORE TEST to reveal what type of snorer you are.
Common Reasons For Snoring
Topping the list for common reasons for snoring are drinking alcohol, smoking, having a high BMI, and the position in which you sleep – on your back, or on a pillow which is too flat or too thick. There’s no quick fix for any of them, but if you are thinking of ways to reduce the amount that you snore, then these could each be considered in turn.
If you are regularly consuming alcohol could you stop drinking earlier in the evening, giving yourself a few clear hours before you go to bed? If you sleep on your back is it possible to make a bed wedge that encourages you to sleep on your side? Do you need a new pillow of a better thickness to give your head and neck the correct support?
Mouth Exercises Also known as ‘oropharyngeal exercises’ or ‘myofunctional therapy’ these special exercises can help tone the muscles in the mouth, throat and tongue. With time and practice, as the muscles become stronger, there is less floppiness and less vibration. Together this would improve your sleep quality and reduce the amount of times you snore. Research suggests that exercising for at least 10 minutes a day, two or three times each day, may bring benefits in around 3 months. These short sharp blasts are a bit like HIIT exercises designed specially for the mouth.
If you want to give this a go try SNORE FREE. It offers a monthly, quarterly or annual subscription but there is a free version with access to 6 exercises. Download the app, sign in with your email and register your sex and age. Then scroll down to the BOTTOM of the ‘your choice of subscriptions’ page to gain access to the free exercises.
Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) – where you stop breathing for at least 10 seconds, at least 10 times an hour and your oxygen dips by at least 4% – is at the serious end of the snoring continuum. With snoring accompanied by choking or gasping, abnormal motor activity and waking in the night to urinate (nocturia) OSA is disturbing to both the individual and anyone else sleeping nearby.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Decreased sex drive
- Morning headaches
- Fatigue and irritability
The EPWORTH SLEEPINESS SCALE is a validated risk assessment tool used for OSA. If you have any ongoing concerns I’d encourage you to make an appointment with your GP.
Sleeping can be stressful, particularly if your sleeping partner is someone who frequently snores. Or you might be a snorer who finds that your noisy nighttime habits leave you groggy, unfocused and irritable the following day. This won’t lead to harmonious interactions. While snoring can’t be ‘cured’, it may be possible to minimise it. Once you know what type of snorer you are, then the appropriate mouth, throat and tongue toning exercises could be the next that you try. I think it’s a no brainer, particularly if you want to keep your sleeping partner sweet on you, and not on the brink of banning you from bed!
Image Jude Infantini at Unsplash.com