Snoring could be a sign that you need help – but how do you find out?

Snoring can be infuriating if you are on the receiving end. But next time you feel forced to kick your partner out of bed for keeping you up all night, or take refuge in the spare room, bear in mind that anything more than an occasional snore could be a sign they need professional help.

Annoyed wife blocking her ears from noise of husband snoring in bedroom at home

Far from something to be brushed off, these nocturnal noises are rarely benign, as any relevant authoritative health website will tell you. Typically, caused by a combination of physiological and environmental factors, snoring may rather surprisingly harm the body in a number of ways.

There are a number of ways in which it can harm you.

The constant vibration of habitual heavy snoring causes damage and inflammation to the throat, and may be linked to thickening of the carotid arteries, which run up the sides of the neck supplying the head with blood.

Researchers at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, say that this increases the risk of artherosclerosis – the furring of the insides of the blood vessels – and increased chances of stroke. Compared to non-snorers, snorers were found to have significantly thicker arterial walls, an early sign of cardiovascular disease. Surprisingly, those with high cholesterol, diabetes and those who smoked did not have thickened carotid arteries, leading the researchers to state that snoring was the biggest health concern for this group.

Those with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) had bigger problems. It is a disorder that occurs due to the collapse of the airway during sleep and causes loud snoring and periodic interruptions in breathing. It has long been linked to heart disease and a range of other serious health problems.

The condition is thought to affect about five per cent of the world’s adult population to some degree, with 250,000 Britons suffering what is deemed a severe form of it, and higher percentages still in some countries – particularly the USA and some Asian nations. However, in the UK alone, some 25 million people are thought to be habitual snorers, without OSA. Most sufferers are however remain undiagnosed and as a result in danger.

If you’re a heavy snorer it’s important to find out if you suffer from OSA and find appropriate help and advice before it’s too late. There are physical signs that will help to identify this but those who want to be exactly sure would benefit from a Home Sleep Test – a simple, quick, and very inexpensive way to find out the severity of the problem, and discover if you have OSA – or not. Not all snorers have OSA but all OSA sufferers snore.

Those who snore and don’t have OSA will benefit from using an approved stop snoring appliance – dependent on whether you snore through an open mouth or through the nose – and there are preventive devices for both forms that work incredibly well and very fast for most people.

Whether you require a stop snoring mouthpiece, or a chin support strap, you and other members of your family will benefit in many ways from you stopping snoring. Harmony will prevail as the nightly thunder ends, and everyone will benefit from having a better night’s sleep. You’ll wake feeling refreshed and suffer less from daytime tiredness and irritability. Sharing bedrooms is fine once more and your marriage will be on a better footing.

If you’re pregnant it will also help you considerably even if for a short period of time. An earlier study from the same team showed that women who begin snoring during pregnancy are at high risk of increased blood pressure and pre-eclampsia, particularly during the second and third trimesters.

The NHS recommends a sleep study, where your brain waves, breathing, blood oxygen levels, heart rate and movements while asleep are recorded, via the use of a simple oximeter attached to the end of your finger. This is a small item that produces large amounts of data to help you.

Patients diagnosed with OSA from sleep tests are offered a range of options.

If the OSA is severe, this should be followed by CPAP treatment under the supervision of your Doctor. Less severe forms of OSA can to be treated by the use of a ‘mandibular advancement’ device, which holds the jaw forward to keep airways open. This is simpler – but is highly effective and recommended by the NHS for approved selected appliances.

John Redfern