Page last updated at 10:09 GMT, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 11:09 UK

Snoring 'cures' fail for majority

snoring man
Snoring can be a serious problem

Nearly three-quarters of people who try over-the-counter remedies for snoring find they do not work, a survey shows.

Consumer watchdog Which? then tested various remedies including nasal strips and throat sprays that nearly 2,000 of its members with snoring had tried.

Few provided relief and some disturbed the users' sleep so much that they were reluctant to use them again.

Experts said it was important to identify the causes of snoring before seeking a remedy.

There's no one 'cure' for snoring as everyone snores for different reasons, and it's important to try and pinpoint why you snore so you can try the right solution
Which? senior researcher Joanna Pearl

A Which? spokesman said: "You may snore for several reasons so buying a single cure may not solve your problem."

For example, if you snore on your back, you may be a tongue-based snorer - where the tongue falls back and impedes your airway.

If you have your mouth open, this may be the problem.

Or it could be a problem with the nose, such a misshapen nose or small, collapsing nostrils, or simple congestion or catarrh.

Other factors can play a part, including sleeping position - on your back is worse - and excess weight or alcohol consumption.

Tried and tested

The seven devices tested by seven couples for Which? included SnoreMender, a removable dental device to hold the jaw forward to help keep the airway open.

Although the tester found it worked, he said it was so uncomfortable that he would be reluctant to use it again.

Similarly, Snore Calm Chin-up strips reduced snoring, but the tester suspected this was only because he was awake longer due to discomfort.

Another remedy trialled was Lloydspharmacy Stop Snoring, a wrist-worn device that gives the user small electric shocks if sounds are detected so the snorer changes position without waking.

The tester said she was woken 20 times in one night and was left with marks on her arms as the pads on the electrodes didn't stay in place.

Lloydspharmacy said the device had received a lot of positive feedback from users.

The pulse setting was adjustable and had to be set high enough to interrupt the snoring and encourage the wearer to change position, but not so high as to wake them up.

Four in every 10 (about 15 million in total) UK adults snore, according to estimates
10.4 million are males and 4.5 million females
Men are perceived to be louder snorers than women
Source: BSSAA

Which? concluded there was some evidence that nasal strips, such as those they tested made by Breathe Right, could help the 15-20% who snore because of a nasal problem.

But it said some available devices, such as the Snore No More wire device that fits in the nostrils and a throat spray called Helps Stop Snoring, had little or no direct evidence yet to support their claims.

The Singing for Snorers CD, a three-month exercise programme designed to tone the muscles, provided some relief, although Which? says it is not clear whether snoring is caused by untoned muscles.

No cure all

Which? senior researcher Joanna Pearl said: "People can spend hundreds of pounds trying to cure snoring, but in a survey of nearly 2,000 Which? online panel members, 71% found that the snoring aid they bought was not very or not at all effective.

"There's no one 'cure' for snoring as everyone snores for different reasons, and it's important to try and pinpoint why you snore so you can try the right solution.

"Before you buy, see what you can do yourself and rule out potential health problems such as severe sleep apnoea. And talk to a health professional such as a GP or dentist if it doesn't improve."

Obstructive sleep apnoea is a condition which causes interruptions in breathing during sleep and may harm the snorer.

Beccy Mullins, a clinical nurse specialist who runs a number of sleep-disordered breathing clinics throughout the UK, said: "Since untreated sleep apnoea may contribute to other serious illnesses, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease I would recommend that anyone who has a snoring issue, considers the possibility of this condition."

Marianne Davey, of the British Snoring & Sleep Apnoea Association, said there were many causes of snoring, and a device would only stand a chance of working if given to a patient whose snoring was caused by the specific problem the treatment was designed to tackle.

Simply trying out a device without first pinning down the cause of the problem was doomed to failure.

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