As anybody who shares a bed knows, when it comes to snoring, often it’s the person who isn’t afflicted with the condition that actually suffers most.
It’s believed a quarter of us are snorers – which leaves three-quarters of us struggling to get a good night’s sleep, and having to put up with the frustration of being kept awake by our bedfellow’s grunts and growls.
In fact, a recent study found that 89 per cent of people whose partners snore will lose on average 1.5 hours sleep every night. Out of this number, an impressively patient 54 per cent branded their partner’s snoring as merely ‘irritating’, but another sleep-starved 47 per cent went a bit further, saying it caused at least one argument, every week.
In more harmonious news, 14 per cent of the male participants found their partner’s snoring “comforting”. But let’s be honest, however sweet that might seem, it’s not really true, is it? When someone else’s sleeping habits are basically inducing your insomnia, it’s not comforting, it’s relationship-ruining – indeed, 19 per cent said they’d considered breaking up over someone’s snoring. So, in the name of love, sleep and sanity, what can snoring sufferers do to stop snoring (and, for sufferees, where exactly should you aim your elbow)?
Dr Chis Idzikowski, director of the Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service, and president of Sleep Medicine Section of the Royal Society Medicine, has these top tips:
• Don’t sleep on your back
Try not to sleep on your back, as this often means your tongue falls back and increases airway resistance. “Try and use pillows as bolsters to keep you on your side,” says Dr Idzikowski. Some experts even suggest sewing a tennis ball into a pocketed T-shirt, wearing it back-to-front, and using that as your ‘propper-upper’.
n Humidify your bedroom
A lot of snoring is caused either by nasal congestion or by allergies, so sleeping in cleaner air, ie – with a humidifier – should help ease this.
• Give up smoking
It’s bad for most things, so it’s not surprising smoking is bad for snoring too. Basically, cigarette smoke will irritate and inflame the linings of your nose and throat, making it more difficult to breathe – especially when you’re lying down at night. Even if you can’t give up the fags entirely, experts do recommend at least holding off for four hours before you go to bed.
• Lose weight
Again, as with many health issues, losing excess weight can really benefit snorers. “People who are overweight tend to snore more,” says Dr Idzikowski. “Losing weight can reduce fatty tissue in the back of the throat and decrease or even stop snoring.”
The size of your neck has a lot of bearing on if you snore, and “if you have been snoring for a long time then it’s possible that the blood vessels that supply the muscles that maintain neck and throat tone during the night have been damaged by the excess weight. Similarly, the nerves that also prevent snoring may also have been affected so muscle tone is impaired.”
So how do you know how big is too big? “If your collar size is greater than 17 inches AND you habitually snore AND have high blood pressure AND your partner tells you that you stop breathing,” warns Dr Idzikowski, “seek medical help!”
• Be careful with dinner
“We know about foods that increase snoring but not those that decrease it,” says Dr Idzikowski. “Avoid caffeine, heavy meals and dairy two hours before bed. Some snoring is caused by allergic reactions that inflame the throat, or increase mucus production, and milk and dairy products may increase mucus production – but the evidence is quite poor.”
• Tone up
“All exercising, including abdominal exercises, actually tones your muscles around the throat area which can lead to less snoring,” says Dr Idzikowski.
PARTNERS: WHAT YOU CAN DO
• Aim for the ribs: “While I would not wish to encourage physical violence,” says Dr Idzikowski, “a carefully placed elbow [yours] into the ribs [your partner’s] enough times to persuade him to roll over will at least temporarily reduce, or halt, the snoring. Repeat as often as necessary.”
• Make the point: Many snorers may not realise how bad their little night-time habit is. So remind them . . . “I often encourage people to record the snoring and play the recordings back to the snorer,” says Dr Idzikowski. “Also leave leaflets and snoring aids such as Asonor, by the bed as a reminder, and try to get [them] to take ownership of their snoring.”
• Get earplugs: When all else fails, do everything you can to block out the drone!