It is estimated that up to a third of all adults snore, with most of these being men (who are roughly twice as likely to snore compared to women).

Is snoring harmful?

Generally speaking snoring is not harmful and does not need to be treated (unless of course it is keeping other people awake!). However snoring may be a symptom of a more serious disorder called sleep apnoea (sometimes referred to as OSA 'Obstructive Sleep Apnoea'), which is where breathing stops for anything from a few seconds up to one minute while a person is asleep. Around 5% of the adult population of Australia is thought to suffer from sleep apnoea. It mainly affects men, with 25% of all men over the age of 30 affected.

What causes snoring?

Snoring is the result of blockages or narrowing of the upper airways which makes the walls of the throat to vibrate during inhalation and exhalation, although inhaling causes louder snoring.

Snoring tends to increase with age, since your throat muscles tend to be more relaxed the older you are. Other conditions which increase your likelihood of snoring include...

  • Being overweight
  • Having enlarged adenoids or tonsils
  • Having polyps in your nose
  • Having any infection or inflammation in the upper airways

Certain things also increase the chances you will snore, including drinking alcohol (since it is a relaxant) and sleeping on your back.

What can I do to stop snoring?

There are a few things you should try before seeking medical advice...

  • Try not to drink alcohol or eat shortly before going to bed
  • If you are overweight, lose weight
  • Avoid using sleeping tablets
  • Sleep on your side or front
  • Treat anything that might be causing congestion of the nose - a viral infection or any allergy

When to see your doctor

If none of the recommendations listed above work, it may be time to see your doctor. In addition, if you have any of the following symptoms you should see your doctor...

  • You have difficulty concentrating during the day
  • You are sleepy during the day
  • You have headaches in the morning
  • You wake up often during the night
  • You wake up in the morning still feeling very sleepy
  • Your breathing stops momentarily while you are asleep (someone else observes this)

These may indicate a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnoea.

How are sleep disorders diagnosed?

This is generally done with a sleep test or sleep study.

What treatment options are available for sleep disorders?

Your doctor may be able to recommend different options for you, from devices you use at night to help your breathing (eg a CPAP machine that maintains 'Continuous Positive Airway Pressure') to surgical options.