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NHS Choices Condition

Content supplied by NHS Choices

We've probably all snored at some point in our lives – it's usually harmless, the worst thing being that it disrupts the sleep of others. But for about one in 100 people, snoring indicates a serious condition called sleep apnoea where breathing is obstructed.

We asked Professor Jim Horne, Director of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University, what he would want to know if he was a snorer.

Why do I snore?

Snoring is the noise you make when your airways are partially obstructed and tissues in your airways vibrate as you breathe in and out. We all snore to some extent, but snoring is twice as likely in men and much more likely if you're overweight. Also, if you've had a bit to drink, you tend to snore more.

Why does being overweight mean I'm prone to snoring?

Think of the back of the throat as an empty muscle bag. When you go to sleep it relaxes and gets a bit flabby – it sags when you breathe in, and inflates a bit when you breathe out. If you're overweight, you tend to carry more fat around your neck. The weight of this fat causes the airways to collapse even more, especially when you lie on your back, which causes the air you breathe to become turbulent and the tissues to vibrate. Being overweight also makes you more prone to sleep apnoea, a sleep disorder most common in men over 50.

What's sleep apnoea?

This is where the fat around your neck is so heavy, it causes your airways to close or almost close so no air can get in. There's a gagging sound where you can't breathe, and in order to breathe you have to momentarily wake up. A huge inrush of air, or a snore, follows. You'll do several of these snores before your blood oxygen levels are restored to normal. Then the whole cycle repeats itself. Thankfully, it can be treated (visit our topic on sleep apnoea for more information - see 'useful links').

How can you treat my snoring?

Sometimes snoring can be managed with a dental appliance, which is fitted by a dentist. You put this in your mouth at night and it pushes your lower jaw forward a bit, to help keep the back of your throat open. In many cases this is quite an effective treatment (go to the 'treatment' section for more information).

view information about Snoring on www.nhs.co.uk »

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