What you can do about snoring
There is no shortage of ‘cures’, for snoring (over 300 anti-snoring devices have been registered at the USA patent office alone), but in many cases self-help is effective.
- Lose weight if you are overweight.
- Avoid alcohol, tranquillizers and sleeping pills within 4 hours of bedtime.
- You could try a herbal remedy from a health shop or pharmacy but, according to Health Which? (December 2001), there is little evidence that they are effective despite the claims on the packaging. There are gargles or throat sprays that you use at bedtime, which contain peppermint, thyme, pine and eucalyptus oils. They may help by leaving a thin friction-reducing layer on the palate and uvula. They are also the most pleasant of the anti-snoring remedies for your sleeping partner.
- Put a walnut, cork or even a tennis ball into a sock and pin it to the back of your pyjamas (use a safe nappy pin). This will encourage you to sleep sideways rather than on your back.
- Tilt the head of your bed up 10 cm (4 inches) by putting bricks under the legs to lessen the effect of gravity on the throat muscles. Do not use a thick, hard pillow; this will kink your neck and make the problem worse.
- Try sleeping in a whiplash foam collar, to stop the neck kinking.
- Have a coffee or cola drink at night, so that your partner gets to sleep first.
- Nostril dilators encourage nasal breathing and help to prevent mouth breathing. To decide if nasal dilators might help, stand in front of a mirror and close one nostril with your hand. Breathe in through the other and see if the nostril tends to get sucked in. If it does, support it with the clean end of a match and see if breathing is easier. Check the other nostril in the same way. If this does improve your breathing, then nasal dilators might be helpful (only 10% of snorers are in this category). There are various types of nasal dilator (see Useful contacts). Some are inserted into the nostrils and some are self-adhesive strips that you apply to the outside of the nose to widen the nostrils. You can buy them from pharmacies.
- You may be snoring mainly because you sleep with your mouth open. To test this, open your mouth and make a snoring noise. Now try again with your mouth closed. If you snore only with your mouth open, a device to keep your mouth closed may help (see Useful contacts). A reader of Dr Le Fanu’s Daily Telegraph column suggest a do-it-yourself version – take a lady’s stocking and bind it tightly under the jaw and over the head with a reef knot.
Plastic mouth devices (technically called mandibular advancement splints, because the mandible is the bone of the lower jaw) are available to hold the jaw slightly forward while you sleep; when the jaw is in this forward position the airway opens wider. There are various different types (see Useful contacts), and some can be moulded to fit by placing them in hot water. These devices may be difficult to get used to, but are said to help 70% of snorers. They are, however, inferior to the type properly fitted by dentists.
Written by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Edited by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Last updated: Thursday, March 25th 2010
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41.5% of the UK population snore (British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association)
In the UK, there are about 15 million snorers - 10.4 million males and 4.5 million females (British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association)
A study at the University of Erlangen, Germany, found that many young people snore; 61% of medical students (both male and female) have been told so by their partners
Snoring is said to have been useful to primitive man, frightening away predators at night
Churchill and Mussolini were both famous snorers
A doctor at the University of Minnesota, USA, found that the snores of 12% of people referred to his clinic exceeded 55 decibels - the maximum legal outdoor night-time noise in Minnesota. "They could get arrested for disturbing the peace - that's how loud the noise is," he said