A stop smoking day or a national Breast Cancer Awareness Month I can understand – but do we really need a Stop Snoring week? Perhaps this one is more for the long-suffering other halves than for the patients themselves – or is it?
Two in five of us snore - and the rest of us may be kidding ourselves! The reports suggest that more men than women snore, although strangely enough there’s a suspicion that women may be rather more backward in coming forward to admit to snoring.
Sometimes snoring is more than a nuisance. About 1 in 100 snorers have a condition called obstructive sleep apnoea. In this condition, you stop breathing for 10 seconds or more, and wake up briefly each time you stop breathing.
Perhaps not surprisingly, this leads to sufferers feeling chronically tired in the daytime, even if they aren’t aware of waking. This condition is definitely more common in men, as well as in people who are overweight and middle-aged. They tend to be very loud snorers, and the condition is often diagnosed by their partner, who lies awake waiting for them to start breathing again. Fortunately, it usually responds well to treatment.
So if you think you or your partner might have obstructive sleep apnoea, do speak to your GP. Otherwise, simple lifestyle measures can make a difference.
Snoring is just noisy breathing, caused by the soft tissues of your nose or upper airways vibrating when you’re drowsy or asleep. Anything that partly blocks those airways, or makes them more floppy and prone to collapsing down on each other, increases your risk of snoring. That’s why regular exercise (with a tennis ball or otherwise) to help you lose weight can help. People who are overweight or obese are much more likely to have airways narrowing. A blocked nose also makes you a prime candidate – your chemist can advise about strips to put over the bridge of your nose, which may help, or you can talk to the pharmacist or GP about a nasal spray if you suffer from hayfever or allergic rhinitis, which makes your nose blocked and itchy.
Your airways are also more likely to get blocked if you sleep on your back, so if all else fails, again a tennis ball could be your best ally. Taking sleeping tablets or drinking alcohol before going to bed tend to make snoring worse because they relax the soft tissues of the upper airways. And, as if you needed any other excuse to stop smoking, guess what – giving up the evil weed could cure your snoring!