The snoring sound is produced as air is forced through obstructed airways.

A peaceful night’s sleep is becoming rarer after scientists discovered that heavy snorers have almost doubled in number over the past 20 years.

Experts at London’s Royal National Throat, Nose & Ear Hospital say soaring obesity rates and smartphone use could be behind the rise in rates of severe snoring.

They found that 7% of the population have sleep apnoea, the most severe form of ‘sleep disordered breathing’, compared to less than4% two decades ago. Researchers examined 1,239 adults and found that almost four in ten people snore at least three nights a week, with men the worst offenders.

In findings published in the journal Sleep Medicine, they suggest increases in obesity and the use of smartphones – which can cause daytime drowsiness – may help explain the rise in sleep disorders.

‘Our results suggest that sleep-disordered breathing is widely under-diagnosed and, taking into account adverse health effects caused by untreated obstructive sleep apnoea, this indicates an urgent need for policy-makers to increase efforts addressing this problem,’ the report’s authors said.

Researcher Dr Maurice Ohayon said obesity was the main cause for the increase, but added: ‘Blue light emitted by LEDs in smartphones, computers and street lights are [also] responsible for insufficient sleep, increasing the risk of obesity, sleepiness and cognitive impairment which increase risk of sleep apnoea.’

© Mail On Sunday