Treating snoring 

It is sometimes possible to treat snoring with lifestyle changes, but further treatment is also available if these don't help.

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes are usually advised by your GP as a first step to treat snoring. These include:

If you feel your medication may be contributing to your snoring, talk to your GP. They may be able to prescribe alternatives. However, do not stop taking prescribed medication without first consulting your GP.

If your snoring is worse when you are sleeping on your back, you may find sleeping on your side beneficial. Wearing a top with a pocket stitched between the shoulder blades and a putting a tennis or golf ball in the pocket can help to keep you off your back as you sleep.

Ear plugs

If your snoring is not causing you health problems but is affecting your partner, asking them to wear ear plugs during the night may be a cheap and effective way of resolving the issue.

Anti-snoring devices

If lifestyle changes don't help, there are anti-snoring devices that can help prevent snoring. These devices are not usually available on the NHS, but can be bought at many larger pharmacies.

The different types of anti-snoring devices are described below.

Nasal devices

If your snoring is mainly coming from your nose, you may benefit from using nasal strips or nasal dilators.

Nasal strips are small pieces of self-adhesive tape similar in appearance to sticking plasters. Before you go to sleep, you place the nasal strip on the outside of your nose. The strip pulls your nostrils apart, which can help prevent them narrowing during sleep.

A nasal dilator is a plastic or metal device that looks a bit like a nose ring. You place the dilator inside your nose before going to sleep and it pushes your nostrils apart while you are asleep.

Currently, there has not been much research to compare the effectiveness of each type of nasal device in treating snoring. For most people, the choice of which device to use is based on personal preference. 

Oral devices

If your snoring is mainly coming from your mouth, you may benefit from chin strips or a vestibular shield. Chin strips are strips of tape placed under your chin. The strips help stop your mouth falling open while you sleep.

A vestibular shield is a plastic device similar in appearance to a gum shield. It fits inside your mouth, blocking the flow of air into your mouth. This forces you to breathe through your nose which may prevent you from opening your mouth and snoring.

As with nasal devices, there is limited evidence regarding which type of oral device is more effective, so the choice will be down to your personal preference.

Mandibular repositioning splint (MRS)

If your snoring is mainly due to the base of your tongue vibrating, a mandibular repositioning splint (MRS) (also known as a mandibular advancement device or MAD) may be recommended.

An MRS is similar to a vestibular shield, but designed to push your jaw and tongue forward. This will increase the space at the back of your throat and reduce the narrowing of your airway that is causing your tongue to vibrate, resulting in snoring.

You can buy an MRS for around £30 to £50, which can be suitable to use for most cases of simple snoring (snoring that does not cause any breathing difficulties).

However, if your snoring is associated with breathing difficulties, such as sleep apnoea, it is recommended that a MRS is made specifically for you by a dental specialist (orthodontist) using impressions of your teeth and jaw.

The cost of a custom MRS will depend on the complexity of the device and the materials used, and can range from several hundred pounds to several thousand pounds. It is unlikely you will be able to obtain a custom-made MRS free of charge on the NHS.

An MRS lasts about 18 months before it needs to be replaced.

Surgery

Several surgical techniques can also be used to correct snoring. However, surgery for snoring is usually only available free of charge on the NHS if both of the following apply to you:

  • There is evidence that snoring is having an adverse effect on your health or quality of life.
  • You have tried all other recommended treatments without success.

Surgery for snoring is usually regarded as a last resort, when all other treatment options have been tried and proven ineffective. Surgery is also not suitable for most cases of snoring. For example, it has limited effectiveness in treating nasal snoring.

Surgery is not usually recommended for people with sleep apnoea because there are more effective treatments available, such as using breathing devices to help with breathing. Read more about treating sleep apnoea.

In cases where there are obvious anatomical problems contributing towards snoring, such as having large tonsils, the recommended surgical option may be to correct the problem by removing the tonsils.

Otherwise, there are four main types of surgery used in treating snoring, although these types of surgery are not usually available on the NHS. These are:

  • uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)
  • uvulopalatoplasty (UP)
  • palate implants
  • radiofrequency ablation (RFA) of the soft palate

They are described below.

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is used when it has been confirmed that soft tissue in your mouth (excluding your tongue) is responsible for your snoring.

During UPPP the surgeon will remove:

  • your uvula – the piece of tissue that hangs from the roof of your mouth
  • some of your soft palate
  • some excess tissue around the base of your throat
  • in some cases, your tonsils and your adenoids (small lumps of tissue that are located at the back of the throat, above your tonsils)

UPPP is carried out under general anaesthetic, which means you will be asleep during surgery and unable to feel pain or discomfort. 

However, UPPP can cause considerable pain afterwards, which can sometimes persist for up to three weeks.

Removing your uvula can affect your ability to pronounce certain sounds. However, this will not affect your ability to speak English because the English language does not make use of any of the sounds made with the uvula (known as uvular consonants). However, you may find your pronunciation of some words in other languages is affected by the operation.

UPP is successful in completely curing snoring in about half of all people who have the procedure. Serious complications occur in an estimated 1% of cases. They include:

Uvulopalatoplasty (UP)

Uvulopalatoplasty (UP), sometimes called laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP), is increasingly used as an alternative technique to UPPP because it carries a lower risk.

However, evidence suggests that UP may not be as effective as UPPP in the long term. UP can also cause considerable post-operative pain that lasts up to two weeks.

During UP, lasers or high-energy radio waves are used to burn away the uvular and some of the soft palate.

Soft palate implants

Soft palate implants can be used to treat snoring that does not cause breathing difficulties if it has been confirmed that the vibration of the soft palate is causing it.

During the procedure, a local anaesthetic injection is used to numb the roof of your mouth. Several implants made out of synthetic material are then injected into your palate, causing it to stiffen. This should help prevent the soft palate vibrating while you sleep.

In 2007, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) released guidance about soft palate implants. It stated that there are no safety concerns regarding the use of implants, but people who are considering using them should be aware there is limited evidence about whether they are an effective long-term treatment.

Radiofrequency ablation

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) of the soft palate is an alternative type of treatment to soft palate implants. It is used to treat cases where vibrations of the soft palate are responsible for snoring.

During radiofrequency ablation, the roof of your mouth is numbed with local anaesthetic and an electrode is implanted in the tissue of your soft palate. The electrode is then used to deliver high-energy radio waves that shrink and harden the tissue of the soft palate. This should help to make it less likely to vibrate when you are asleep.

NICE guidance states there are no obvious safety concerns about the procedure, but there is currently limited evidence as to the long-term effectiveness of the treatment. 

Medication

Medication cannot directly treat symptoms of snoring, but can help treat some of the underlying causes.

For example, if allergic rhinitis (nasal irritation and swelling) is responsible for your snoring, an antihistamine nasal spray may help relieve your symptoms. Antihistamines are a type of medication that have proved very effective in treating allergic reactions.

Alternatively, if your snoring becomes particularly troublesome as the result of having a blocked nose, a short course of nasal decongestants may help. However, never use nasal decongestants for more than seven days in a row because it can make your symptoms worse.

Your GP can advise about whether medication will help with your snoring.




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