Queen Victoria, one of history’s most iconic monarchs, ruler of England and Ireland, Empress of India, wife to her first cousin (hey, it was a thing in English royalty) was also…a legendary snorer.
Victoria, who reigned for an impressive 64 years, putting a literal ‘era’ in her job description, had a list of sleep disorders longer than her royal title. The leading suspect? Sleep apnea.
Later in life, the Queen would’ve fit right in with today’s body positivity movement, but her obesity likely didn’t help her sleep issues. Despite being a petite 5 foot 2 inches in her prime, she appeared to shrink with age and expand horizontally, with her waist reaching a robust 46 inches (116cm).
Her loyal ladies-in-waiting had their hands full, as the Queen was known to doze off frequently, especially during carriage rides. Their clever solution was to constantly adjust her pillows, keeping her awake to avoid any royal embarrassment (!).
Despite going to bed at 10 PM, insomnia often plagued poor Victoria, leading to many “sleepless nights”. She would resort to sleep medicine (chloral hydrate) or hot tea laced with whiskey, but the day wouldn’t truly start for her until noon. On top of that, she battled severe irritability and memory loss, which we can now link to disrupted sleep. Some medical experts have put forward the idea that the Queen may have suffered from a circadian rhythm disorder.
Queen Victoria was quite the foodie. From fancy breads and smoked haddock to whiskey and mulled wine, she truly enjoyed her culinary indulgences. This appreciation for the finer things in life may have contributed to her sleep issues. Medically, we now know that overeating and excessive drinking often result in a louder, more disruptive nighttime chorus.
50% of Australians Snore
Fast forward to the present day, and we find that we haven’t made much headway in finding a permanent solution to eradicate snoring.
Despite its presence in human life for thousands of years, this nightly annoying performance continues to affect hundreds of millions of people worldwide. This isn’t a niche problem– according to the 2022 Global Snore CensuZZZ 50% of Australians claim regular seats in the snoring symphony.
In the quest for a cure, we’ve invented many devices ranging from the sensible to the downright grotesque, such as horrific contraptions that hold the tongue forward, originating in the 1950s. The first of these looked more like a medieval torture device than a sleep aid, fashioned from cold, unyielding metal. There’s also the “anti-snoring mask”, a hundred-year-old solution featuring leather straps to keep the mouth firmly closed.
During the American Revolutionary War, snoring soldiers had cannonballs sewn into their uniforms to prevent them from rolling onto their backs as officers recognised the importance of good quality sleep when it came to performance in battle.
Today, our remedies might be less brutal, but no less focussed on remedying the detrimental effects of snoring. Researchers at the University of Paris Cité in France have recently suggested that habitual snorers may be accelerating brain ageing by missing out on restorative deep sleep.
The study found that loud snoring in particular, often a symptom of sleep apnea, heightens the risk of stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and cognitive decline.
This may be due to a decrease in deep sleep, often compromised in snorers. For every 10% decrease in deep sleep, the researchers observed an increase of 2.3 years in brain ageing.
In my high performance practice, I place a strong emphasis on analysing a client’s sleep, ruling out sleep apnoea diagnosis, circadian rhythm disruptions as well as as assessing their risk for disrupted sleep based on their genetics and biology.
You absolutely cannot thrive and perform at your best when your sleep architecture and quality is suboptimal.
Snoring Be Gone: Practical Tips to Silence the Snores
If you’re a habitual snorer, I can’t encourage you enough to take this seriously and start to investigate whether you suffer from sleep apnoea.
In the meantime, here are some tried and tested tips to help decrease your snoring:
1. Maintain a Healthy Weight:
Extra weight, particularly around the neck, can put pressure on your airways and contribute to snoring.
2. Keep Well-Hydrated:
Hydration helps keep the nose and soft palate from becoming sticky, which can exacerbate snoring.
3. Adjust Your Sleep Position:
Try sleeping on your side instead of your back, which can help prevent the tongue from falling back and blocking the throat.
You can buy positioning T-shirts and pillows or if you’re on a budget, place a polystyrene ball inside the leg of a pair of ladies tights (make a knot on either side of the ball to keep it in place) then tie the tights around your chest (positioning the ball on your back). This will prevent you rolling onto your back at night.
4. Avoid Alcohol Before Bed:
Alcohol can relax the throat muscles, causing them to collapse into the airways and lead to snoring.
5. Limit the Use of Sleeping Pills and Sedatives:
Similar to alcohol, these substances can relax the throat muscles and increase the likelihood of snoring.
6. Hydrate the nasal passages:
Use a saline rinse or go the Ayurvedic way and place a couple of drops of sesame oil in each nostril at night. Also gargle with sesame oil to lubricate the throat.
7. Consider a Humidifier:
Dry air can lead to nasal congestion, which can contribute to snoring. A humidifier might help. Mariah Carey is well known for sleeping with 15 humidifiers at night to protect her voice!
8. Quit Smoking:
Smoking can irritate the throat and nasal passages, causing inflammation and snoring.
9. Exercise Regularly:
Regular exercise can help to tone the muscles in your throat, reducing snoring.
10. Take up singing and gargling
To strengthen your throat muscles.
11. Use a Nasal Strip or an External Nasal Dilator:
Stick-on nasal strips can be placed on the bridge of the nose to help increase the space in the nasal passage. This can make your breathing more effective and reduce or eliminate your snoring.
12. Try an Anti-snoring Mouth Appliance:
These devices, which resemble an athlete’s mouth guard, help open your airway by bringing your lower jaw and/or your tongue forward during sleep.