Half of men and a third of women in the UK snore and it tends to get worse as we grow older as the muscles in our throat slacken. Lifestyle measures such as losing weight, cutting down on alcohol and stopping smoking can all help to keep the grunts at bay but there is no real cure. There are however loads of treatments – some better than others. Sleep expert Dr Chris Idzikowski, Director of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre, gives his verdict on six treatments that could work for you.
NASAL STRIPS AND DILATORS
Nasal strips are small, self-adhesive strips, a bit like sticking plasters, that you apply over your nose to help open up the nostrils.
Nasal dilators are plastic devices that you insert into your nose to prevent nostril collapse and allow more air in.
BEST FOR Mild snoring caused by a blocked nose.
EXPERT VERDICT “There’s not much research to support these but anecdotally they help some snorers, so they may be worth a try, although they are not for snorers with obstructive sleep apnoea,” says Dr Idzikowski.
TRY The Breathing Relief™ Nasal Dilator, currently available from Amazon for £16.21 or online from www.breathingrelief.com
SPRAYS AND RINSES
Sprays and rinses are designed to soothe inflammation which can cause swelling, reduce stuffiness, and/or irrigate the nasal passages. Some contain soothing herbs, salt and others minerals, while others contain anti-histamines or low dose steroids to reduce inflammation. Some target the tissues of the nose while others target the throat.
BEST FOR Snoring caused by nasal congestion and conditions such as allergic rhinitis.
EXPERT VERDICT “The evidence is slight but they may help some people but again not those affected by obstructive sleep apnoea or the tongue flopping to the back of the throat.”
TRY Nytol Anti-snoring Spray, a foam throat spray containing lubricating oils and carrageenan, a seaweed based extract to help the foam adhere and firms the tissues. Said to reduce snoring eight-fold. £12.99 from pharmacies and supermarkets.
Moulded devices worn inside the mouth to keep it shut while sleeping. Unlike mandibular advancement devices (see below), they do not bring the lower jaw forward.
BEST FOR Snorers who snore with their mouth open.
EXPERT VERDICT “Slightly more evidence that these work and snorers who don’t have nasal congestion may benefit.”
TRY The Somni Snore Guard £27.99 from Amazon and www.britishsnoring.co.uk
MANDIBULAR ADVANCEMENT DEVICES
A kind of dental splint worn while you sleep that holds your lower jaw slightly forward to tighten the soft tissue and muscles of the upper airway stopping them collapsing. This in turn enables air to flow more freely and reduces the airway narrowing which causes soft tissue vibration.
BEST FOR So-called ‘tongue base snorer’ whose tongue flops to the back of the throat causing an obstruction, or OSA sufferers.
EXPERT VERDICT “There’s good evidence to support these provided your teeth are sound. but they must always be properly fitted and regularly checked by a dentist.”
TRY The Sleepwell, an adjustable, custom-made mouth piece with a soft inner lining for greater comfort. From around £350 depending on which clinic you attend. Visit s4sdental.com to find out more.
CPAP (CONTINUOUS POSITIVE AIRWAY PRESSURE)
A nose and/or mouth mask attached to a machine that delivers a continuous flow of air into nostrils while sleeping to help keep the airways open. A variety of different CPAP products is available.
BEST FOR Recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) for snorers with obstructive sleep apnoea.
EXPERT VERDICT “Considered the ‘gold standard’ treatment for people with obstructive sleep apnoea they can make a huge difference to daytime sleepiness and risk of health problems.”
TRY GoodKnight 420G CPAP, £299.00 from www.britishsnoring.co.uk One of the lightest and quietest machines available. You need a prescription from your doctor.
Various operations can be done to remove or vapourise excess tissue in the nose and/or throat with a laser or firm the soft palate to reduce vibration. Each has its pros and cons so if you decide to go this route ask the surgeon why they recommend this particular operation and what to expect.
BEST FOR Snorers for whom other options have failed or who don’t like CPAP where snoring is causing significant problems such as tiredness.
EXPERT VERDICT “Surgery can certainly have a place for people with obstructive sleep apnoea but recovery can be painful and tissue may regrow. The person may still need CPAP.”
SHOULD YOU WORRY ABOUT SNORING?
For around 600,000 people in the UK snoring is a sign of the more serious obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), where the snorer stops breathing often many times throughout the night which can cause severe daytime sleepiness and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. OP CUT To measure daytime sleepiness do the Epworth Sleepiness Test. A home sleep study available on the NHS or price £300 from the British Snoring and Sleep Apneoa Association can identify why you snore and whether you need treatment. Visit www.britishsnoring.co.uk.
This article was first published in Saga magazine. For lots of other good health info see www.saga.co.uk/health