20 percent of Australians snore – that’s two out of every 10 adults honking and shuddering like a jackhammer at night.
“Snoring can be a train wreck for your health, if you have sleep apnoea, where your breathing stops repeatedly, you’re at risk for diabetes, heart disease and stroke. And it can have devastating effects on a marriage,” says Dr Mark Levi, a sleep medicine clinician from Dr Levi’s Sleep Clinic.
What is snoring?
That irritating sound is when the tissues at the back of the throat lose muscle tone, flop back and vibrate. You’re more likely to snore if you’re overweight, drink alcohol, take sleeping tablets, have a cold or are pregnant.
Where to seek help
Ask your GP where you can get a quality at home, overnight sleep test done. “You need to determine if you have a snoring or a sleep apnoea problem, and you won’t know unless you do a sleep test,” says Dr Levi. The test is often bulk billed and gives information such as your oxygen levels and frequency of apnoeas.
Your GP should then refer you to a specialist, it could be a sleep clinic, a dentist, or an ear nose and throat specialist, who may offer you a number of different treatment options.
“For some people, simply rolling off their back helps. Elevating the head of the bed can work, as can sleeping with an extra pillow, or using a foam wedge,” says Dr W. Chris Winter, sleep expert and author of The Sleep Solution.
A dietitian or your GP can help with weight loss, which can help some people stop snoring. “Also avoid drinking alcohol at night, as it’s a muscle relaxer,’ says Chris.
Over the counter devices
Appliances such as Mute, which you put in your nose to open your nostrils up or Provent nose plugs and nasal strips are easily available but often don’t nail the problem, says Dr Levi.
Mandibular advancement splints
These are a top and bottom mouth guard which gradually move your lower jaw forward to open up the pipe at the back of your mouth. These can work well, see a dentist who will mould one for your mouth and teeth.
These treat obstructive sleep apnoea by pushing oxygen down your lungs. ‘These work very well, but after a year only 40% of patients are still using the machine due to the face mask and the level of noise involved,” says Dr Levi.
Surgery or laser treatment
“There’s lots of different kinds of surgery you can have for snoring, including tonsil removal and tongue lasering,” says Chris. A less invasive option is NightLase, a laser treatment which tightens up the tissues of the throat which are obstructing the airways.