The facts on snoring

Rachel Carlyle / 20 December 2019 ( 20 December 2019 )

Each month Populus conducts an in-depth poll of Saga customers to find out what you are thinking. This month: the facts on snoring.

What can be as loud as a vacuum cleaner or even a chainsaw, yet happen right next to your ear every night? There’s a good chance 89% of Saga customers know the answer to this question – because that’s the proportion who live with a snorer, according to our research.

An astonishing 94% of Saga’s female customers have a partner who snores: 19% of them every night, 28% most nights and 18% once or twice a week. It’s obvious from our survey that women snore too (60% admit to it, compared with 73% of men), but less regularly.

It’s clearly having an effect on their lives: half of all Saga women who live with a snorer lose sleep – 62% of them up to an hour a night, 28% of them from one to two hours and an unlucky 10% more than two hours.

‘We know snoring causes a lot of distress for partners – one of our biggest sellers is ear-plugs,’ says Ellie Hughes of the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association. ‘Losing sleep really affects your quality of life, and a lot of people are suffering in silence. Or not silence because of the snoring.’

10 unusual ways to get to sleep

Snoring has been blamed for night-time rows and even marriage break-ups, but you are clearly a more tolerant bunch. Just over half the women we polled (53%) and 63% of men say they’ve got used to their partner’s snoring over the years and it no longer bothers 57% of them. That’s not to say they don’t take some action: 63% of women try that old favourite, a poke in the ribs. Another 26% try to turn their partner on their side, 17% tell them to be quiet and 17% go to another room or the sofa (is it telling that only 5% of women send the snorer to the sofa?).

Only one in four of our snorers (26%) have tried to do anything about their habit, which surprises leading ENT surgeon Dr Mike Dilkes. He has treated several thousand snorers over the years and thinks society doesn’t take snoring seriously enough. ‘It’s not just a nuisance. It deprives both the snorer and their partner of sleep, which puts them at higher risk of morbid diseases. Snorers are not getting good quality “stage 4” sleep, the deepest, most regenerative sleep, which takes an hour to get into. If you’re constantly waking yourself up with snoring you never get there.’

It’s not true you can’t do anything, stresses Dr Dilkes, the author of Stop Snoring the Easy Way. Even small lifestyle changes can make a difference in up to half of cases: losing weight, stopping alcohol consumption earlier in the evening, learning to sleep on your side if you’re a mouth snorer and removing dust from the bedroom.

Practical advice for how to stop snoring

Over-the-counter remedies such as mouth guards and nasal strips work for some. Dr Dilkes has also come up with a five-minute daily work-out to strengthen the tongue, soft palate and muscles in the upper airway. Studies show exercises can reduce snoring volume by nearly 60% and frequency by 39%.

In his experience, a lot of snoring is caused by a blocked nose, often due to a low-level allergy to house dust mites.

That’s why he rates an over-the-counter saltwater sinus rinse for the nose before bed. ‘It washes out all the bits of dust and particles that the nose has filtered out during the day.’

Dr Dilkes admits he used to snore, but no longer does. ‘I do my exercise but I also lost weight and have trained myself to sleep on my side. I must say, it’s really improved life.’

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.