Millions of people whose sleep is affected by snoring rely on the spare room or sofa to solve the problem.
A recent survey by the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association (BSSAA) found that 95 per cent of respondents who end up sleeping elsewhere, do so because of their partner’s snoring.
And the guest room isn’t the only option. Snorer Tom Cruise reportedly had a ‘snoratorium’ created at his Hollywood mansion, so wife Katie Holmes could get a little undisturbed shut-eye.
For most ordinary people, of course, having a room soundproofed is going a little far. But that doesn’t mean snoring isn’t a huge problem.
Marianne Davey, director of the BSSAA, says about half the nation (30 million people) aren’t getting a good night’s sleep.
‘Snoring disrupts a person’s sleep, even if they don’t realise it, and bed partners lie awake listening to it,’ she adds.
Snoring is caused by a partial blockage of the upper airway at the back of the mouth. This occurs when the muscles that surround it relax during sleep and it narrows, leading to noisy vibrations of the soft palate and other oral tissues.
Snorers may also have an obstruction between the nose and throat area, such as swollen tissue, congestion or a deformity.
Some cases may be linked to sleep apnoea, which is thought to affect up to three million people in the UK at some point in their lives. In sleep apnoea, the airway temporarily closes, causing breathing to stop. This can happen when fatty tissue around the neck area squeezes it shut or there’s a blockage, such as the tongue, dropping to the back of the throat.
Extremely loud snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness and morning headaches are some of the symptoms of sleep apnoea, which increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.
The BSSAA website features a series of tests that will help sufferers determine what’s causing their snoring, ranging from assessing breathing through the nose and mouth, to making snoring noises to see if your tongue is involved in the problem.
Once the causes are established, targeted treatments can be applied.
Losing weight, stopping smoking and trying to change your sleeping position may help – and some even advocate singing in order to increase muscle control in the throat and palate.
There are also mechanical treatments people can try, such as Continuous Positive Airways Pressure (CPAP). This small machine blows room air at a positive pressure through a mask placed over the nose. The air keeps the airway open and prevents it from collapsing and closing completely, as in sleep apnoea. It also makes snoring impossible.
Sufferers can also try using a mandible advancement device, a gumshield-type aid that brings the lower jaw and tongue forward, to increase the size of their airway.
As a last resort, surgery can be used to remove a nasal polyps or cut out floppy soft-palate tissue.
‘We would never guarantee that a snoring treatment will work,’ warns Marianne. ‘We can only say that once we know your problem, this is the treatment that has good clinical evidence of stopping it.’
She adds: ‘We find that snorers who are active in wanting to stop snoring are the ones who solve their problems.
‘Everybody can resolve their snoring. For some, it’s quite an easy road, and for others whose snoring is caused by several factors, it’s more tricky and may take a little longer.’
For more information about snoring, visit the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association website at britishsnoring.co.uk