Let's have a quieter night in: it's all in the snore

Snoring is a health hazard, as well as a marriage wrecker. But few sufferers know it can be cured

There's no sound quite as annoying as that of a snore; it's right up there with the noise of a jackhammer or a baby crying. Anyone who has tried to sleep near a snorer will agree that the worst part about a snore is the silence in between when you think that it might have stopped... only for it to start again.

Snoring affects 45 per cent of the population at one time or another and it is not just irritating for the bedfellows of snorers, it can also be dangerous for the snorer. In 2003, researchers at an Australian hospital made the link between chronic snoring and heart disease. Snorers often also suffer from fatigue as their sleep is disrupted, even if they are sleeping in a room by themselves; if they are sleeping in a bed with someone else, their sleep is also disrupted by being nudged or rolled over by their bedfellow. This is exemplified by the fact that habitual snorers often describe an overwhelming need to sleep in the afternoon.

So why do so few snorers seek help? The problem may lie in the bewildering array of snoring cures on the market. There are rings for your fingers that promise to cure snoring through acupressure, boxes that light up when they detect you snoring and alter your sleep patterns and laser operations, lotions and potions designed to tighten the throat muscles and clear the nose.

Treatments for snoring fall into two camps, the mechanical and the chemical. The British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association (BSSAA) believes that the most effective way to treat snoring is temporarily to alter the shape of the nose and mouth during sleep to stop the vibrations that make the snoring sound.

On its website, the Association sells nostril dilatory (springy semi-circular devices that prop the nostrils open), nasal strips (that also widen the airways), sticky strips to keep the mouth closed and the mandibular advancement device (MAD), which changes the position of the jaw during sleep.

The other method of treating snoring is chemically, with sprays and creams to tighten the throat muscles and clear the nose.

But embarking on a search for a treatment for snoring can be long and frustrating. People often give up after trying one or two treatments because they don't realise how idiosyncratic snoring is – everyone snores in a different way for a different reason. A treatment that works for one kind will not work for another (see box). But the good news is, if you can correctly identify the cause of your snoring, there's every chance you can cure it.

"A lot of people try one thing and then, when that doesn't work, they give up and think that nothing will work," says Dr Neil Stanley, a sleep expert from Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. "But few people realise that there isn't a cure-all and a lot of people try many different things before they find the treatment that works for them."

More recently, operations have been cited as an effective cure but Dr Stanley believes that surgery should not be undertaken lightly. "There are a number of operations that can be done. They all try to do the same kind of thing, which is to cut the flaps of skin in the airway. The success rates for this aren't exactly brilliant. I think in about 25 per cent of people it works perfectly, in 50 per cent it makes no difference at all and in the rest it can make the problem worse. If I had the option of spending £5 on a tub of potion X or £1,000 on having someone hack about at the back of my throat, I'd be spending a lot of money in the chemist," adds Dr Stanley. "Maybe the fact that surgery is available has made people think that if it is serious enough to merit an operation any treatment less than that is a waste of time."

Graham Newman, a retired marketing director, searched for a cure for his snoring for years. "I remember as a child that my father snored – I think snoring has a lot to do with facial structure and so that maybe why I snore, too. My snoring only really became a problem when my children were young; my eldest is now 36 and the youngest is 30. When they were little my wife, Janet, would be up in the night with them and then she couldn't go back to sleep because I'd be snoring. I was in complete denial about it at first but in the end I tried a lot of the treatments because my wife is a deputy head teacher and it's an awful lot of work, with late nights and early mornings. She obviously wasn't getting enough sleep because of my snoring."

"The children used to tease him about his snoring, which didn't help" says Graham's wife, Janet. "But he realised that things were getting a bit difficult – I was getting quite tired with having to work full time and not getting a full night's sleep made it worse. Usually if I fell asleep before he did I could sleep through but, as is the way with so many people, it's just something that you learn to put up with. You do find yourself getting a bit cross with the person who's snoring, and I did feel a bit cross with Graham but I would never tell him."

Graham tried many cures, including a device that gave him an electric shock whenever he snored. "About 20 years ago some guy came up with this wrist strap with a couple of electrodes attached to a thin wire in a box. It read your acoustic output and if you started making noise over a certain level, it would give you an electric shock. We're not talking masses of volts, but it was enough to give you a sting. Sometimes I woke up but at others it seems it was enough to give me a jolt and stop me snoring. But either the velcro would come off or I would lie on top of it and would get a massive smack in the chest, which would definitely wake me up."

Eventually the solution was a combination of treatments. Graham started using small strips that dissolve on the tongue and lubricate the tissue at the back of the throat, reducing the vibrations and the snoring sound. He also started sleeping with the window open and with fewer pillows. He doesn't drink within three hours of going to bed. "I do feel that I am sleeping better now, and feel more sprightly in the morning," says Graham.

Ben Hugo, a 29 year-old painter from south London, consulted the BSSAA in his search for a treatment for his snoring, which has become more of a problem since his girlfriend, Jo, moved in with him. "I suppose I've always snored. I've been on holidays with friends where we've been sharing a room and I've woken up buried under a pile of shoes and bottles that people have thrown at me during the night to shut me up. I've had flatmates who have complained that they can hear my snoring through the walls but I just thought that they were light sleepers. That sounds a bit unfair but if you can't hear yourself snoring, it's difficult to take responsibility for it."

Marianne Davey from the BSSAA discovered from talking to Ben that he suffers from general nasal stuffiness; he used to smoke and his girlfriend smokes in the house. They also have a cat, to which Ben might have a mild allergy. Davey recommended that Ben try nasal-decongestants.

"The decongestants worked really well," said Ben. "The other night I didn't take it before bed and that was the night that I snored. I'm finding it harder to get out of bed in the morning and I think that means I'm sleeping more deeply."

"We used to have arguments about Ben's snoring," says Jo, " mainly because I don't think that he realised how annoying it is so he'd be upset when I'd kick him in the middle of the night. I tried to suggest that he do something about it but he was a bit reluctant. The decongestant has worked well and we're both getting more sleep."

Sweet dreams: how to find a cure

* Nose-snorer

Look in a mirror and press one nostril closed with a finger. With your mouth closed, breathe in through your other nostril. If the nostril closes, try holding it open with a finger of the other hand. If breathing is easier with the nostril held open you may suffer from nasal stuffiness. Any over-the-counter decongestant taken just before bed should work (but check that they don't contain caffeine); there also decongestants available specifically designed for snorers.

* Mouth-snorer

Open your mouth and make a snoring noise, then close your mouth and try to make the same noise. If you can only snore with your mouth open there are products which encourage you to keep your mouth closed when you are asleep available from www.britishsnoring.co.uk.

* Tongue-snorer

Make a snoring noise and then stick your tongue out as far as it will go and grip it between your teeth. Now try to make a snoring noise. If the snoring sound is quieter with your tongue in this position then you are what is known as a "tongue base snorer". A treatment for this is a mandibular advancement device, which is a mouth guard moulded to your jaw to keep your tongue in the right place during sleep.

* Palate-snorer

In this type of snoring, the soft palate vibrates, making the snoring noise. There isn't a test for this, but if neither the nose nor the tongue test works, a palatal flutter might be the cause. Sprays and dissolvable strips that lubricate the tissues in the throat, such as the ones used by Graham Newman, can be bought over the counter.

Information from The British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association; for more help go to www.britishsnoring.co.uk.

* 25% of people in the UK are habitual snorers, meaning that they snore every time they fall asleep

* 61% of people polled believed that snoring means their household is a more irritable place

* A study in Italy found that snoring can get worse with age; a survey of 5713 Italian residents found habitual snoring in 24 per cent of men and 13.8 per cent of women, rising to 60 per cent of men and 40 per cent of women aged 60 to 65

* 1 in 4 couples have slept in separate rooms because of snoring

* A recent poll found that of those who snore and are in a relationship, 50% believe that it is something that their partners need to put up with and are reluctant to search for a cure

scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi

Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Life and Style

As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”

Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Network Engineer - CCNP, Hedge Fund, London

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer - CCNP, Hedge Fu...

    Senior Network Engineer-CCIE, Multicast, Low Latency

    £60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-CCIE, Mul...

    Network Infrastructure Engineer

    £30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Infrastructure Engineer (...

    Network Engineer (CCNP, BGP, Multicast)

    £35000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, BGP, Mult...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition