The snorer's guide to a better night's sleep

Almost all of us will have suffered with snoring, whether as the snorer or as the tired partner. A survey by the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association found that 40 per cent of the population of England snore.

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Though it can affect you at any age, it is more common in those aged between 40 and 60, and men are twice as likely to be affected as women. There are many different types of snorer and several different causes.

What is snoring?
Many of us will recognise the snort or rattle of a snore but what causes the noise? Snoring is when the soft tissue at the back of the mouth, nose or throat vibrates during breathing.

According to the NHS, the severity of the snore is graded from numbers one to three - grade one is when the snore occurs infrequently and is not particularly loud, grade two indicates a regular snorer (more than three days a week), and grade three is when a sleeper snores every night, often loud enough to be heard outside the bedroom.

What causes snoring?
Common causes of snoring range from lifestyle choices to physical abnormalities. If you are fond of your alcohol or cigarettes you are more likely to snore, while those who are overweight, are using sleeping pills or have allergies are also at a higher risk. However, blocked nasal passages or small or collapsing nostrils can physically affect your ability to breathe easily at night and it could even be as simple as your sleeping position.

Should I be worried?
If you are a grade one snorer you are unlikely to feel any ill effects, though if it is affecting your relationship do not be afraid to consult your GP. Grade two snorers may feel a little tired during the day but grade three snoring is a good sign that you are suffering obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). This means that the airways become partially or completely blocked for about 10 seconds - this causes the sleeper to briefly wake or enter a lighter sleep state before their normal breathing is restored.

Though it can affect people of all ages, including children, it is most common in those aged 35 to 54. A relatively common condition (an estimated four in 100 middle-aged men and two in 100 middle-aged women suffer), it often goes undiagnosed. Because OSA sufferers are not getting enough deep sleep, they are at an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Can I stop snoring?
According to the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association, there is no 'cure' for snoring. But the good news is that there are a wealth of treatments available.

In order to establish what product will work best for you, visit the Association's website where a few simple home tests will give you an idea of your particular type of snoring.

From manidibular advancement devices (which hold the lower jaw and tongue forward) and nasal strips (which prevent nostril collapse) to mouth guards (which help you to breathe effectively through the nose) there are a host of 'self-help' treatments on offer.

Surgery may also help but this is generally regarded as a last resort - its effectiveness is often limited and it can cause side effects so it is worth seeing your GP first as they will be able to advise you on the best options available.