"There ain't no way to find out why a snorer can't hear himself snore" Mark Twain (1834-1910)

Several authors have previously performed investigations of snoring but this study was the first on a large representative sample of a major European country.

We found that Heavy Snoring has the strongest association with sleep disordered breathing and still a strong association with hypertension, cerebrovascular accidents and coronary artery diseases .


In 1994, we investigated the prevalence of snoring and breathing pauses during sleep, using telephone interviews, in a representative sample of the general population of the United Kingdom.

The objective was to determine the prevalence of snoring, breathing pauses during sleep, and obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) and to determine the relation between these events and sociodemographic variables, other health problems, driving accidents, and consumption of health care.

We interviewed by telephone, using the Sleep-EVAL system, 2894 women and 2078 men aged 15-100 years who formed a representative sample of the non-institutionalized population of the United Kingdom.


Forty per cent of the sample reported snoring regularly and 3.8% reported breathing pauses during sleep.

Regular snoring was significantly associated with:

  • male gender, age of 25 or more,
  • obesity,
  • daytime sleepiness or naps,
  • night time awakenings,
  • large amounts of caffeine intake,
  • smoking.

Breathing pauses during sleep were significantly associated with:

  • obstructive airway or thyroid diseases,
  • male gender, 35-44 years age group,
  • consumption of anxiety-reducing drugs,
  • complaints of non-restorative sleep,
  • consultation of a doctor in the past year.

These two breathing symptoms were also significantly associated with drowsiness while driving.

Based on the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (1990) minimal criteria, 1.9% of the sample had Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome. In the 35-64 year age group, Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome was found in:
- 1.5% of women (95% confidence interval 0.8% to 2.2%) and
- 3.5% of men (2.4% to 4.6%).

Disordered breathing during sleep is widely underdiagnosed in the United Kingdom.

This situation is linked to increased use of medical resources and a greater risk of daytime sleepiness which augments the risk of accidents.

Physicians should ask patients and bed partners regularly about snoring and breathing pauses during sleep.


Content of this page is extracted from:
Ohayon MM, Guilleminault C, Priest RG, Caulet M. Snoring and breathing pauses during sleep: telephone interview survey of a United Kingdom population sample. Br Med J 1997; 314:860-3.