No one wants to be a snorer, and many are concerned that doing so will keep others awake at night. But new YouGov research in the UK reveals it's now actually abnormal not to snore, after the age of forty at least.
Overall 45% of people admit to being snorers. This ranges from 22% amongst 18-24 year olds to 55% amongst over 60s. Not only does the tendency to snore increase with age but also it is also more likely to do so if you are a man, as data shows that 51% of men snore compared to 40% of women.
The majority of couples over the age of 40 include a snorer. 55% of 40-59 year-olds say their partner snores, and 57% of those over-60. Among the group of men who were aged over 60, almost two-thirds were snorers.
In Australia, similar figures from the Sleep Health Foundation show that between 33 and 45 per cent of Aussies have poor sleep patterns that are often due to heavy snoring, and these lead to fatigue and irritability - putting them at risk of low productivity, damage to their mental health, unsafe driving and behavioural problems.
Director of the Sleep Health Foundation, Dr David Hillman said: “Just like obesity, smoking, drinking too much and not exercising enough, sleep problems cause real harm in our community.”
It’s getting worse in Australia too. The study found that the numbers of sleep problems among Australians are 5 to 10 per cent higher than when the Sleep Health Foundation published its last survey on sleep health in 2010.
What causes snoring?
Snoring is caused by the soft tissue in your head and neck vibrating as you breathe in during your sleep. The soft tissue it can affect includes nasal passages, the soft palate, the base of the tongue and the tonsils.
As you get your nightly rest, the airways in your neck and head relax and narrow, which increases the speed at which you breathe. This also changes the air pressure in your airways, which in turn causes the soft tissue to vibrate, causing the snoring sound. The vibrations that happen during snoring are thought to weaken blood vessels and muscles in the head and neck. This further reduces the ability of the airways to keep open, meaning snoring is likely to be more frequently and even louder.
Some people snore so loudly that it can be heard in the next room and wakes up other members of their household. Others snore every single night and are virtually unable to sleep without making a noise. However, some people snore very infrequently and it only affects them if they are suffering from a cold or flu.
Does anything make snoring worse?
There are certain factors that can make snoring even worse because they cause the airways to narrow even further when a person is asleep and one of the main factors is obesity. A person with a neck circumference more than 17 inches sees extra pressure applied on the airways. In addition, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes is also known to cause the airway to narrow, which in turn increases the risk of snoring.
Meanwhile certain sedatives and anti-depressants have shown to have the same affect on the airwaves as smoking and alcohol. Common allergies can also exacerbate snoring as substances such as pollen can cause the nose to become blocked.
Is there a cure for the snoring?
Although snoring can be treated to improve the effects there is no complete cure - but it can be prevented and significantly lessened as a problem. There’s a great deal of information available online which helps but some people will go to see their GP when their snoring starts to affect their sleeping patterns or is causing major problems in their relationship. Although it may surprise you, it is well documented that snoring is the third most important cause of divorce. In its most dangerous form, snoring can be one of the main symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea; something we’ve described in detail in our previous articles.
A chronic snorer should try changing their lifestyle first and lose weight, but there is also a range of medically approved anti-snoring devices available that help to minimise snoring, including mouth guards of various types that vary in type and cost to suit the individual and the degree of the problem.