Snoring is when a person makes a snorting or rattling noise while they are asleep. It occurs when the soft tissue at the back of the mouth, nose or throat vibrates when a person breathes in and out.
Healthcare professionals use a grading system to assess the severity of a person’s snoring. There are three grades of snoring, which are described below.
Grade one snoring
Grade one snoring, also known as simple snoring, is where a person snores infrequently and the sound they make is not particularly loud.
In grade one snoring, a person’s breathing is unaffected. This means they will not experience any significant health problems related to their symptoms. However, their snoring may cause problems or issues on a personal level if it is irritating or upsetting their partner.
Grade two snoring
Grade two snoring is where a person snores on a regular basis – more than three days a week. Some people with grade two snoring may experience mild to moderate breathing difficulties during sleep because the snoring causes their airways to become narrowed. The medical term for this is upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS).
The breathing difficulties can affect the quality of a person’s sleep, which can make them to feel tired and sleepy during the day.
Grade three snoring
Grade three snoring is where a person snores every night, so loudly that it can be heard outside their room.
Many people with grade three snoring have a related condition called obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). This is where a person’s airways become partially or totally blocked for about 10 seconds.
The lack of oxygen causes the person to come out of deep sleep and into a lighter state of sleep, or to have brief period of wakefulness, in order to restore normal breathing.
Repeated episodes of snoring and waking can occur throughout the night leading to a person feeling very sleepy the following day. This may have an adverse impact on their day-to-day activities.
How common is snoring?
Snoring can affect people of all ages, including children, although it is more common in people between the ages of 40 to 60. Twice as many men than women snore.
Known risk factors for snoring include:
- obesity – being very overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above
- drinking alcohol
When treatment is needed
If you are very sleepy during the day, your snoring may be affecting your breathing and treatment will be required.
As well as disrupting your sleep and daily activities, untreated UARS and OSA can increase your risk of developing more serious conditions, such as heart disease and stroke.
Another important risk to health is that excessive daytime sleepiness can increase the risk of a person being involved in a road traffic accident. It is estimated that up to one in five road traffic accidents are the result of excessive sleepiness.
You should also seek treatment if you have simple snoring (grade one) that is causing relationship problems with your partner. Your emotional wellbeing is just as important as your physical wellbeing, so you should not worry that your GP will dismiss your snoring as a trivial problem.
Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, are usually recommended as the first treatment to try for snoring.
There are also anti-snoring devices, such as mouth guards or nasal strips, that may help prevent snoring.
Surgery for snoring is usually regarded as a treatment of last resort and it is important to be aware that surgery can often have limited effectiveness and cause unpleasant side effects and complications.
It may sometimes be possible to improve a person’s snoring, but a complete cure may not be possible.
An important factor for improving or curing snoring is a person’s willingness to make lifestyle changes, such as losing weight (if they are overweight) or quitting smoking (if they smoke). People who make these types of changes usually have a better chance of stopping snoring than people who do not.
- Body tissue is made up of groups of cells that perform a specific job, such as protecting the body against infection, producing movement or storing fat.