Snoring may seem harmless enough but it can in fact be dangerous to your health.
Snoring is one of the main symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), a condition where there is significant obstruction or restriction of breathing.
If you snore, you should see your GP as you may indeed have OSA, which can cause high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes.
Resultant daytime drowsiness can also seriously impact your job performance and risk of accidents.
What causes snoring or OSA?
Alcohol, muscle relaxants and sleeping tablets can cause the tongue and throat muscles to relax and may obstruct breathing.
Overweight people are also more likely to snore because the airways become narrowed and squashed by fat surrounding the area.
OSA can also be caused by anomalies in your nostrils, tongue (i.e. enlarged), uvula (the dangling bit in your throat that helps close your nasal passage when you swallow), tonsils or adenoids.
What to do about it?
According to Better Health Channel Victoria and a free 2015 Choice report about anti-snoring products, there are a few immediate lifestyle changes to try.
Simply changing your sleeping position might be enough to stop your airway from being obstructed.
If you are overweight, a healthy diet and daily exercise can deliver moderate weight loss sufficient to reduce OSA and snoring.
Also, seek alternatives to sleeping pills and muscle relaxants. Ask your GP about cognitive behavioural treatments if you suffer from anxiety or a sleeping disorder.
Avoid drinking alcohol in the four hours before you sleep.
Smokers are more likely to snore than non-smokers; yet another reason why giving up smoking will be a relief to your family and friends.
Your GP may refer you to a specialist called a sleep physician, who is qualified to help sleep disorder sufferers make an informed decision about the most appropriate treatment.
Treatments will vary according to the severity of OSA, age, body-weight, degree of daytime sleepiness, alcohol-consumption, medical history and the anatomy of the upper airway.
Other options are Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) treatment, an oral appliance, and surgery for selected patients.
Don't ignore the snore – get it checked out now!?