Snoring is often described as a loud sound that occurs when you sleep. As you breathe in and out, air flows past the relaxed tissues in your throat. These relaxed tissues can partially block the airway and cause vibrations. Snoring is very common and not often related to anything more serious. The biggest complaint from snoring is often from the person’s partner. Snoring is more common in men than women and occurs commonly in people who are overweight. Being overweight or having larger tonsils can cause narrowing of the airways which also can lead to snoring. If you have any nasal problems or a family history of the medical condition obstructive sleep apnoea or you drink alcohol, you are also at higher risk of snoring.
For some people, snoring can be quite disruptive to their everyday life and in a few, it can be a sign of more serious problems. Obstructive sleep apnoea is a sleep disorder that has a number of symptoms that can be associated with snoring. The person may have episodes where they appear to not breathe (also known as apnoea), disrupted sleep which can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, poor concentration, morning headaches, and sore throat.
Your doctor will ask you for a detailed history of your symptoms (sometimes with help from your partner). They will also ask you about your medical history including your alcohol intake and any allergies that you may have. Your doctor may need to examine you, and this will involve looking inside your nose and mouth. If they suspect that your symptoms are simply due to snoring and there is no further cause for concern, there isn’t usually any further investigation that is required. However, if you and your doctor are concerned about your symptoms, you may be sent for further imaging or to a sleep specialist for further studies. A specialist will be able to discuss more specialised devices and possible surgery with you if required.
If you are overweight, the most effective thing you can do is lose some weight. Your doctor will encourage you to lead a healthier lifestyle and avoid smoking and drinking alcohol, as this can relax the muscles and worsen your symptoms. If you have any allergies or other symptoms leading to nasal congestion, then your doctor may recommend medication for this. It is also advised to catch up on sleep as much as possible and make sure you are well-rested, because not sleeping enough can exacerbate your symptoms. The position you lie in when you sleep is also important. When you are on your back, your throat muscles often collapse back onto your airways causing partial obstruction and snoring. It is therefore recommended to sleep on your side or use a nasal tape to encourage you to breathe through your nose. It may also be beneficial to see if your partner wants to try earplugs.