It is the cause of nocturnal misery and bedroom strife for millions of Britons and can even rival the volume of an express train. Snoring sits high on divorce petitions’ list of “unreasonable behaviour”. But where nasal strips, laser surgery and not-so-gentle shoving have failed, thousands of heavy snorers could soon be supplied with breathing masks on the NHS to give them – and their partners – a good night’s rest.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the watchdog that controls access to treatments, is ready to recommend wider use of the masks for sufferers of the condition known as obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS). The condition causes people to stop breathing intermittently during sleep, often causing them to be excessively tired and moody.
The continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP) devices, worn as masks covering the nose or face, cost £400 to £600 and emit gently pressurised air during the night to keep the airways open and aid breathing. But the treatment is currently available only through selected NHS trusts and sleep clinics, as some local primary care trusts refuse to fund it.
According to the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association, there are an estimated 15 million snorers in Britain. A loud and persistent snorer can reach up to 90 decibels – about the same volume as a passing train.