A good night’s sleep is key. It’s so important because quality slumber has a bearing on everything from great skin to beating stress. So if your partner snores, it can wreak havoc. Not only can the snoring of the person next to you prevent you from falling asleep, but it can also affect your quality of sleep throughout the night. It can take such a toll that a study by The Sleep Disorders Center at Rush University Medical Center found that relationships had a much higher divorce rate if one person snored.
But what if you’re the snorer—will it affect you? Researchers at the University of Michigan Sleep Disorders Center found that the snoring sound could actually wake up the person emitting the noise. So it looks like fixing yours or your loved one’s snoring habit could make for a happier, healthier body, mind and relationship. But this begs the questions: Can you actually stop snoring altogether? We called on Bhik Kotecha, consultant ENT surgeon at London’s Royal National Throat, Nose & Ear Hospital, to reveal whether or not it’s possible to stop snoring.
What is snoring?
Snoring is vibrations caused when breathing. These vibrations occur because of a partially blocked pathway either in the mouth, nose or throat. “Snoring affects 45% to 50% of adults, so it is very common,” says Kotecha. “Snoring worsens when you’re on your back, as the tongue drops back further on your larynx and windpipe,” he explains.
Can you actually stop snoring?
In some people, it is possible to stop snoring with a few lifestyle tweaks. “People who are overweight, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, or have anatomical problems with the nose and throat would have a higher chance of snoring,” Kotecha says. “Simple lifestyle measures can help. A diet that helps weight loss can, in turn, help with snoring. Don’t drink alcohol too late at night, and if you smoke, cut down; this will reduce the inflammation in the nose and throat to help ease breathing and reduce snoring.”
Sleep aids that work
You can also look to buy sleep aids. “A mouth guard may help,” Kotecha says. “In some patients who have difficulty breathing through their nose, nasal strips or nasal spray may help. But there is no evidence to demonstrate that nasal pillows help.” These over-the-counter products won’t fix the root cause of snoring, but they can ease the noise. If your partner’s snoring is really getting you down, you need to encourage them to sleep on their side: “Not lying on your back really helps,” Kotecha says. “Stitch golf balls into the back of your partner’s night shirt to prevent them from rolling onto their back!” he adds.
The Dark Side of Snoring
While golf balls may seem funny, snoring can be the sign of something more serious. “Around 10% of snorers have a condition called obstructive sleep apnoea,” Kotecha says. “People with this condition tend to feel unrefreshed on waking, suffer from morning headaches and feel very tired during the day. It’s important to identify and treat this condition because if left untreated, it would result in a higher chance of developing heart problems, strokes, type 2 diabetes and impaired cognitive functions.”
So how do you identify if your snoring needs expert attention? “A full nose-and-throat examination should be conducted before any necessary lifestyle changes, like cutting down on smoking, are carried out. The patient would need to have a sleep study done to diagnose sleep apnoea—some partners often note that whilst their partner is snoring away, they may stop breathing for short periods.”
The Last Resort: Surgery
As for more drastic measures, you can have surgery to help with snoring. Says Kotecha, “There’s a definite role for surgery, but patient selection is crucial. We have developed a technique at the Royal National Throat, Nose & Ear Hospital in London called ‘drug-induced sedation endoscopy’ whereby we bring the patient into the hospital and give them sedation to make them fall asleep and snore.
“Whilst they snore, we insert a fibreoptic flexible camera inside to identify which part of their nose or throat is causing the snoring and thus target these anatomical regions selectively. Surgery may be performed with simple minimally invasive radiofrequency techniques, but in some cases, laser surgery or more advanced robotic surgery may be required.”