Whether you’re on the receiving end of it or the one responsible, snoring is the cause of bad sleep, exhaustion the next day and arguments with your partner who is also feeling irritable and bleary-eyed after a disturbed night.
Snoring such an inconvenient ailment that a deep dive on the internet will reveal countless weird and wonderful cures, but there’s so much misinformation about what can either alleviate or make your snoring worse.
In fact, some of the science-approved solutions are not what you’d expect.
A new study has found that sleep apnoea, of which snoring is a symptom, is more common in post-menopausal women because they have lower levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone.
The same study raised hope that Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) could reduce snoring.
Here, FEMAIL reveals five surprising true facts about snoring cures, and debunks four myths.
Experts have revealed the snoring solutions that really work, and some of them might surprise you – from singing to tongue exercises
1. HRT CAN REDUCE SNORING
Snoring affects women just as it does men, and the issue might get worse after women hit the menopause.
Around one in 20 post-menopausal women suffer from obstructive sleep apnoea, a condition causing the airway to collapse which can cause loud snoring and wake someone up to 40 times a night.
Now scientists at the University of Bergen, in Norway, have found that sleep apnoea is more common in post-menopausal women because they have lower levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone.
These are the hormone which are replaced when women have HRT, raising hopes it could help with snoring and sleep apnoea.
The study found that the snoring and other symptoms of sleep apnoea diminished when the hormones were replenished to a pre-menopausal levels.
OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNOEA
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) occurs when the walls of a person’s throat relax and narrow during sleep, blocking their airways.
This interrupts normal breathing, with symptoms including loud snoring, noisy and laboured breathing, and repeated episodes when breathing is interrupted by gasping and snorting.
OSA affects between four and 10 per cent of people in the UK. In the US, around 22 million are affected.
During an episode, the lack of oxygen triggers a sufferer’s brain to pull them out of deep sleep so their airways reopen.
These repeated sleep interruptions can make the person very tired, with them often being unaware of what the problem is.
Risks for OSA include:
- Being overweight – excess body fat increases the bulk of soft tissues in the neck
- Being male
- Being 40 or over
- Having a large neck
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
- Being in the menopause – hormonal changes cause the throat muscles to relax
Treatment includes lifestyle changes, such as loosing weight, if necessary, and avoiding alcohol.
In addition, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices prevent the airway closing by delivering a continuous supply of compressed air through a mask.
A mandibular advancement device (MAD) can also be used, which is like a gum-shield that holds the jaw and tongue forward to increase the space at the back of the throat.
Untreated, OSA increases a person’s risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attacks and type 2 diabetes.
2. TONGUE EXERCISES ARE A GOOD SOLUTION
Researchers revealed in a 2013 study that a simple set of exercises can dramatically reduce snoring in patients.
The 39 patients in the study were randomised for three months of treatment with nasal dilator strips plus respiratory exercises (Control) or daily exercises (Therapy).
The research, which was published in the journal CHEST, found that in patients with primary snoring or mild OSA, oropharyngeal, or mouth and tongue, exercises significantly reduced the frequency of snoring by 36 percent and total power of snoring by 59 per cent.
‘This study demonstrates a promising, noninvasive treatment for large populations suffering from snoring, the snorers and their bed partners, that are largely omitted from research and treatment,’ Barbara Phillips, the Medical Director of the Sleep Laboratory at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, said at the time.
‘Frankly, this will change the advice that I give to my patients who snore,’ she added.
Such exercises include pushing the tip of the tongue against the hard pallte and sliding the tongue backwards 20 times.
Another quick exercise suggests you should force the back of the tongue against the floor of the mouth while keeping the tip of the tongue in contact with the inferior incisive tooth 20 times.
Another way to strengthen the tongue is to suck the tongue upward against the palate, pressing the entire tongue against the palate 20 times.
It is also good training to chewing and to swallow on both sides of the mouth without contracting the tongue.
3. SINGING DOES HELP WITH SNORING
Ever heard of singing for your dinner? How about singing for your sleep?
A study carried out by the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital found that singing can be used to reduce the risk of snoring.
This is because it is believed a lack of tone in the throat muscles could be a major cause of the ailment.
Singers reinforce the same muscles that are in the soft palate and upper throat and can lead to snoring if they become too weak.
Malcolm Hilton, consultant otolaryngologist at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust and Sub Dean of the University of Exeter Medical School, trialed 120 people, half of which were chronic snorer and the other half living with moderate sleep apneo.
For three months, half of each group sang the exercises, and the other half did nothing.
At the end of the trial, the group which performed the exercises reported better sleep quality and less snoring.
4. SNORING CAN BE RISK FACTOR FOR ERECTILE DYSFUNCITON
Several studies have revealed that men who snore are more likely to struggle to get an erection.
A study published by the Journal of Sexual Medecine found that 69 per cent of male participants diagnosed with sleep apnoea also had Erectile dysfunction.
Another study, this time published in 2016, also found that 63 per cent of study participants with sleep apnea suffered from erectile dysfunction.
While the scientists were not able to find a clear reason as to why snoring could lead to erectile dysfunction, they suggested that sleep apnoea could cause a dip in testosterone levels in men, and deplete their oxygen levels too, which are both needed to produce erections.
5. HAY FEVER MAKES SNORING WORSE
As people living with hay fever will know, this allergic reaction to pollen can cause an itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears and sneezing.
For this reason, hay fever tends to make people’s snoring worse.
People who suffer from allergies also tend to suffer from blocked or runny nose, and may need to switch to mouth breathing in order to sleep, which means they are primed to breath even more loudly than before.
This is because, breathing through the mouth when you are sleeping can cause your tongue falls farther back, can cause compressions on your throat from the lowered jaw and a dried throat.
Air that is directly inhaled through the mouth also vibrates the soft tissues at the back of the throat, which will lead to snoring.
And snoring can occur even if you sleep through the nose, as the sound will be produced by the air entering your sinus via openings that are smaller than they should be.
1. A NIGHT CAP WON’T HELP WITH SNORING
Popular belief dictates that a nightcap can help you fall asleep easily.
However, there is no indication that a tipple before bed will help with your snoring. In fact, it is likely to have the opposite effect.
Alcohol has muscle relaxant properties, and drinking alcohol four to five hours before sleeping can make things worse because it reduces the resting tone of the muscles at the back of the throat.
This affects everyone, and even people who don’t usually snore can develop the ailment after a night of heavy drinking.
Drinking can also cause dehydration, which is also likely to worsen your snoring.
When you are dehydrated, the mucus in the mouth and throat can thicken, which can cause surfaces to stick together and lead to snoring.
2. SLEEPING PILLS WILL HELP
Sleeping pills can help you fall asleep faster, but they won’t do anything to curb your snoring.
Much like alcohol, these sleeping aids tend to relax the body, which in turn can weaken the muscles at the back of the throat and cause snoring.
Not only will these pill make you more likely to snore, it is also believe they could worsen the underlying condition behind the snoring, sleep apnoea, and make it a common occurrence.
The more you’ll have episodes of sleep apnoea, the more you’ll snore, meaning sleeping pills can drag you down a slippery slope.
On top of the snoring, it is thought that sleeping pills could bring on the more severe sides of sleep apnoea, which include: exhaustion during the day, impaired memory, depression, high blood pressure and diabetes.
3. SLEEPING ON YOUR BACK IS THE SOLUTION
Sleeping on your back is associated with some health benefits, but it is unlikely to help reduce your snoring.
It is believed sleeping on your back helps with the spine, but it also means that your tongue is more likely to fall back into your mouth and obstruct your airways, which is likely to trigger sleep apnoea.
A 1985 study actually found that people who switched from sleeping on their backs to sleeping on their side breathed better through the night and snored less.
Erica Carleton, an assistant professor of human resources and organisational behavior at the University of Saskatchewan told the New York Times in February that sleeping on your back is actually one of the worse things you can do if you have sleep apnoea.
‘When you sleep on your back, that actually compresses your breathing system more, and it makes it more likely for you to have those gasping sounds or to snore,’ she said.
4. SURGERY IS THE ONLY WAY TO TREAT SLEEP APNOEA
In some cases, surgical intervention might be needed to successfully treat sleep apnoea.
However, this only applies to specific cases, such as a child whose airways are being blocked by their large tonsils.
Some adults might seek to surgically remove or tighten tissues in their throats, mouth or nose that worsen the issue, but it might not be indicated for everyone.
A GP is also likely to prescribe a series of lifestyle changes before recommending surgery, because sleep apnoea and snoring can also be caused by hygiene, a posture issue or gravity.
Meanwhile, other successful form of treatment include CPAR – a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine.
This contraption steadily blows air into your airway and the airflow can be adjusted. It is the most common treatment for patients with severe obstructive sleep apnoea.