Have you ever woken up and had someone complain about your snoring? You might not even be aware of it, and it turns out you’re not alone. About 24% of men snore regularly and about 14% of women.

Snoring happens while we’re asleep, the flow of air over a narrowing and floppy airway sets up a vibration that will become increasingly louder as we put more effort into our breathing. According to research, nearly everyone snores occasionally and the incidence increases with age. Contributing factors include:

    • Drinking alcohol, especially a large amount, smoking or taking muscle relaxant medications
    • Being overweight
    • Having a blocked nose, allergies or hay fever
    • Sleeping on your back (this often makes people’s tongue get in the way of airflow)
    • Being pregnant
    • Have a broken nose

While a mild case of snoring may be irritating to those who have to sleep nearby, in most cases it is not dangerous. Usually it consists of a continuous repetition of snore-snore-snore sounds without any non-breathing or gasping intervals. Mostly the person who is snoring is unaware that they are creating such a ruckus, especially if their sleep is not disturbed.

In fact often they themselves have no problem sleeping, and chances are they will not be sleepy the next day (provided they have no other sleep disorders). However, while the snorer may be having a good night’s sleep, the partner is at risk of serious sleep deprivation. If you do sleep with a snorer, invest in a good set of earplugs, use a fan to mask the noise and if need be, sleep in another room.

Other treatments to decrease snoring include losing weight (if this is a cause), decreasing substance consumption such as nicotine and caffeine, cutting out eating before bed, increasing exercise and changing sleeping positions.

Keep in mind though that snoring itself is frequently an indicator of the more serious condition of sleep apnoea. This is especially so if the snoring is accompanied by episodes of non-breathing and gasping. If you suspect you have sleep apnoea be sure to see your healthcare provider for information on treatments.

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