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Snoring and the evidence behind the various treatments available

By Alan Nathan

Snoring is often regarded as little more than a source of amusement. Seeing somebody asleep and giving a performance of their own during a concert or play, for example, usually provokes at least suppressed mirth among those sitting around the culprit. In general, snoring is not a health problem but, far from being amusing, it can often be a source of distress to a partner and a cause of discord in the home. In some cases snoring, as a manifestation of sleep apnoea (see PJ, 12 February, pp187–90), can be a real threat to health.

Several surveys have been carried out and the general finding is that up to about 50 per cent of all adult males and about 25 per cent of females are habitual snorers.

In one study,1 a third of the men and a fifth of the women reported snoring loudly. Another study2 defined loudness in terms of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency limit on the maximum acceptable outdoor night-time noise level (55 decibels).This was exceeded by 12.3 per cent of all individuals tested and by nearly half of those with sleep apnoea. In an accompanying editorial the principal author of the article wrote that, theoretically, these snorers “could be arrested in bed for disturbing the peace”. A further survey3 found that 52 per cent of married women and 15 per cent of married men were bothered by their spouse’s snoring.

Pharmacies are often the first port of call for snorers, or their desperate domestic partners, for snoring cures and a wide range of these is available.

Causes of snoring

Snoring occurs when air does not flow smoothly through the passages in the nose and throat. These air passages are surrounded by soft tissue structures (see Panel 1, p310, for a description of these structures).

When people are awake, muscle tone is maintained in these soft tissues, allowing air to flow freely through the oral cavity. During sleep the structures relax, causing the air passages to narrow and, if the mouth is partially open and air is drawn in through it, the structures vibrate to create the sounds of snoring. It is also possible to snore with the mouth closed if there is an obstruction to airflow through the nasal passages, either as a result of congestion (eg, due to an upper respiratory tract infection or allergic rhinitis) or an anatomical defect or other physical blockage.

Download the attached PDF to read the full article.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 10997307

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