As a snorer, you may for the most part be blissfully unaware of the problem you cause to those trying to sleep near you. While snoring is often made into a joke and the snorer the topic of many a party conversation, it is a serious sleep disorder. Snoring may be the tip of the iceberg and, due to the disturbed sleep and reduced airflow throughout the night, may lead to other life-threatening health problems.
Snoring can also have emotional and domestic consequences: partners sleep in separate beds; marriages break up; holidays sharing a room are avoided. Daytime sleepiness, the result of disturbed sleep for both the snorer and their partner, can affect both people's ability to carry out daily activities effectively.
What causes snoring?
During the daytime, when awake, an open airway allows air to flow and we breathe easily. When we sleep the muscles in the throat relax which can cause the airway to narrow. Airflow can become turbulent, causing the airway to vibrate, resulting in snoring. Snoring occurs in people with associated causes, such as those listed, which increase the effects of the airway narrowing during sleep and lead to snoring.
The most common causes:
- Nasal stuffiness
- Evening alcohol
- Residual tonsils
- Receding lower jaw
If one or more of these are present, you may find that you can successfully help yourself or your bed partner with simple lifestyle modification. However, sometimes none of these causes are present, or lifestyle changes make no difference.
Snoring is often associated with a more serious sleep disorder called Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) which, if left untreated, can have other impacts on your health. If you or your bed partner has any of the symptoms of OSA, you should consult your GP for screening or further testing before trying to treat the snoring yourself.
However, if no signs of OSA are present, and you have looked at lifestyle changes, treatment of snoring can be effective using an anti-snoring device. In their simplest form, anti-snoring devices consist of two sports-type gum shields, one for the top teeth, and one for the bottom teeth. These are then joined together so that when worn at night the lower jaw is pulled forward to open your airway and reduce or eliminate snoring.
How do anti-snoring devices work?
They work by holding the lower jaw forward during sleep, and prevent narrowing of the airway behind the tongue. This means the airway is maintained and open to allow free flow of air as you breathe. They are effective in treating snoring and are occasionally used in the treatment of mild to moderate OSA when deemed appropriate by a sleep specialist.
If you are considering an oral snoring appliance for snoring it essential your teeth and jaw structure are suitable. Your dentist will be able to advise if this is a possibility for you. In some cases these devices can cause minor teeth movement, excess saliva or a dry mouth but these possible side effects have to be balanced against the potential benefits to be gained from using this treatment.
Modern custom-made devices are more sophisticated and adjustable making them much easier to live with than older style appliances and may exhibit fewer side effects. Anti-snoring devices may be known as mandibular advancement/repositioning devices/appliances/splints and should only be supplied and fitted through a dentist.
How do I get an anti-snoring device?
You will find a wide range and cost of self fit non-custom devices available on the internet and high street, however, they are not recommended as they may cause more problems than they attempt to solve. They are generally an uncomfortable and frustrating waste of money. It is also important to realise that anything worn in your mouth at night may affect your oral hygiene or teeth if not fitted correctly.
It is recommended that all oral anti-snoring devices are fitted by a dentist and are custom made to fit you. As snoring and OSA are respiratory and sleep problems it is important to visit a dentist that works as part of a multi-disciplinary team (Dentist and Consultant Physician or ENT).
To obtain a modern, custom-made, adjustable device, you may find a dentist who works in accordance with Dental Protection Ltd. Position Statement by visiting this site: http://www.dentalsleepmed.org.uk/index.cfm?pg=search.
Alternatively, email us with your question at firstname.lastname@example.org or discuss your case with your own GP or dentist.