There are a number of reasons why people snore, and just as many snoring remedies. However, some methods may not work for everyone. If you want to stop snoring, determining the underlying cause is the key to finding a solution or treatment.
Some individuals may be able to ease or eliminate their snoring without a doctor’s help. Others may have severe snoring or conditions like obstructive sleep apnea that require professional assessment and treatment. If snoring is affecting your sleep, your healthcare provider can help identify the root cause of the problem and recommend an appropriate care plan.
We explore some common methods used to prevent or stop snoring.
If your snoring is mild or infrequent, you may be able to reduce or stop snoring with home care. Home care snoring remedies are easy to implement, don’t require medical supervision, and may be successful in reducing snoring for some people. While these strategies can benefit anyone who snores, they aren’t a substitute for proper medical treatment. It’s important to consult with a medical provider, especially if home care approaches don’t help your snoring or if your snoring is severe.
Change Your Sleep Position
Your sleep position — whether you sleep on your side, back, or stomach — can cause or exacerbate snoring. People who sleep on their back tend to snore the most, while side sleepers snore less often. Just over half of individuals with obstructive sleep apnea have a form of the disorder that is exacerbated by back sleeping, and evidence suggests that around 65% of people without sleep apnea may snore less just by changing their sleeping position.
As a result, doctors sometimes recommend positional therapy as a way to treat snoring in people with and without obstructive sleep apnea. Products that can help you change your sleep position include vibrating devices to prevent back sleeping and special pillows designed to encourage side sleeping. Propping up the upper body may also help reduce snoring.
Sleep hygiene is a series of recommendations intended to encourage restful sleep. While few studies have explored the link between overall sleep hygiene and snoring, there is some evidence to indicate a connection.
Certain sleep hygiene habits may play a more direct role than others. For example, sleep hygiene recommendations state that the bedroom should be as dark as possible. Some evidence suggests that sleeping in a more brightly lit bedroom may cause a stress response that exacerbates sleep apnea symptoms. Similarly, alcohol and tobacco can make snoring worse, and sleep experts recommend avoiding these substances before bed.
Other ways to improve your sleep hygiene include keeping a consistent evening routine, avoiding electronics before bedtime, and getting plenty of exercise during the day.
Avoid Alcohol and Other Sedatives Before Bed
Drinking alcohol and taking sedatives relax muscles in the airway, which may increase snoring and sleep apnea symptoms.
It takes about two hours to metabolize one alcoholic drink, so people who drink more than one drink may need to stop drinking several hours before bedtime to avoid effects on sleep and snoring.
Some people who take medication with sedating side effects do so at night to avoid daytime drowsiness or to help them sleep. If you take sedative medication and want to stop snoring, your doctor may be able to help you adjust your dosing schedule.
Address Nasal Congestion
Nasal congestion is a common reason for snoring because it prevents air from flowing freely. This may affect the shape of the upper airway by changing the air pressure within or leading people to breathe through the mouth.
A variety of conditions and situations can block the nasal passages, including structural problems like nasal polyps and a deviated septum as well as sinus inflammation caused by colds, allergies, and bacteria. The treatment for nasal congestion depends on the cause. Common treatments include nasal sprays, antihistamines, saline irrigation, decongestants, and using an air purifier. While these treatments can be helpful for snoring due to allergies or sinus inflammation, they may be less effective for those with sleep apnea and structural problems, and its best to discuss treatment with your medical provider
If you have a structural problem that is obstructing your airway, your doctor may recommend having nasal or sinus surgery.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Snoring is closely linked with excess body weight. Obesity raises an individual’s risk for sleep apnea and snoring because extra weight presses on the airway, narrowing the breathing passage and interfering with the flow of air.
Obstructive sleep apnea and weight share a complicated relationship, and researchers have yet to fully understand all of the factors at play. However, losing weight often has a significant effect on snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, particularly in those under the age of 50.
For individuals who have obesity and obstructive sleep apnea, experts recommend implementing a healthy diet and partaking in regular exercise to reduce symptoms. For some people, weight-loss surgery may be appropriate. However, weight loss should also be combined with other treatments such as CPAP as applicable. Talk to your healthcare provider to decide the best treatment plan for your situation.
Buy Nasal Dilators
Nasal dilators are designed to widen your nasal passages. External nasal dilators, or nasal strips, are adhesive bands that are placed on the nose. Internal nasal dilators are placed in the nostrils.
Drug-free nasal strips are available over the counter, making them a good option for people who cannot or do not want to take medications. Although nasal strips are inexpensive and readily available, their effectiveness is unclear. Older research suggests that the strips could help certain people with nose disorders who snore, but they may be less helpful in those with sleep apnea or have other structural causes. Internal nasal dilators may work better than nasal strips.
Practice Mouth Exercises
Also known as myofunctional therapy, certain mouth exercises are designed to improve the function of the mouth and upper respiratory tract to reduce snoring. For example, these movements may include pronouncing vowel sounds, swallowing and chewing motions, and moving the tongue against the teeth to strengthen the surrounding muscles.
You can learn how to perform these exercises on your own using videos and apps. However, it is unclear if self-directed mouth exercises are as effective as those performed under the direction of a healthcare provider such as a speech therapist. Talk to your doctor for additional information about myofunctional therapy.
Some snoring treatments require a doctor’s assistance. Medical interventions like anti-snoring mouth devices, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices, and surgical treatments can make a difference for people who snore due to sleep apnea or problems with the shape of their nose, mouth, or teeth. However, these treatments are only available through a healthcare provider, and some treatments for snoring may not be covered by insurance plans.
If the frequency or severity of your snoring concerns you, contact a doctor. After reviewing your medical history and symptoms, they can develop an individualized care plan that suits you. You may need to try multiple snoring remedies before you find relief.
Try an Anti-Snoring Mouthpiece
There are two types of anti-snoring mouthpieces. Both are worn at night and are designed to keep the airway open. Mandibular advancement devices push the lower jaw and tongue forward, whereas tongue-retaining devices hold the tongue forward using suction.
Evidence suggests that mouthpieces help snorers with or without sleep apnea. However, the devices may not be suitable for some people, including individuals with few teeth or periodontal disease. Around one-third of people are unable to use anti-snoring mouthpieces, often due to discomfort.
Long-term use of anti-snoring mouthpieces has not been well-studied, and some people who use them may have side effects such as pain, salivation, or dental problems. For these reasons, it is important to have your mouthpiece fitted by a specially trained dentist who understands your diagnosis and your doctor’s treatment plan.
Use a CPAP Machine
A CPAP machine prevents a person’s airway from collapsing by pumping pressurized air through a tube and into a mask worn over the nose or the mouth and nose, letting the individual breathe without pausing as they sleep. CPAP machines are one of the more effective treatments for individuals with obstructive sleep apnea.
With regular use of a CPAP device, most people experience a major reduction in obstructive sleep apnea symptoms. However, an estimated one-third of people stop using CPAP due to side effects, such as:
- A stuffy or runny nose
- Dry mouth
- Discomfort in the chest muscles
Tell your doctor if you are experiencing discomfort or feel that your mask does not fit properly. Adjustments can make using the device more comfortable, including trying a variety of different masks and attachments
Although CPAP machines are considered effective for snorers who don’t have sleep apnea, insurance plans may not cover CPAP for these individuals. Let your doctor know if you have sleep apnea symptoms so they can run the necessary tests and arrange for a CPAP prescription if appropriate.
Ask About Surgery
Usually, surgery is reserved for people who snore due to a structural problem with the nose, mouth, or respiratory system, such as:
- Soft palate problems
- Nasal polyps
- Deviated septum
- Large tonsils
While research indicates that surgery improves snoring in individuals whose nasal structures block airflow, there is no evidence that people without structural nasal problems should have surgery to prevent snoring.
People who snore due to enlarged tonsils may undergo tonsillectomy to remove their tonsils and clear their airway.
If a problem with the soft palate or uvula (a small appendage at the back of the throat) is causing snoring, individuals may undergo an inpatient procedure designed to widen the airway and reshape the soft palate. This procedure often works well to reduce snoring for a few years, but it is not permanent.
Less invasive procedures include using a laser, thermal energy, a physical implant, or a hardening substance to stiffen the palate and help it keep its shape. Some studies indicate these procedures may help reduce snoring, but more research is needed.
Work With Your Doctor
While home care methods may be sufficient for occasional or mild snoring, it is always best to rule out any serious problems if your snoring habits worry you. For snoring that is frequent, very loud, or disruptive to your or your bed partner’s sleep, contact a healthcare provider to determine why you are snoring and work out a treatment plan. You should also contact a doctor if home care treatments do not relieve your symptoms.
It is extremely important to speak with a doctor if you have any symptoms of sleep apnea in addition to snoring. These symptoms include:
- Pauses in breathing while you sleep
- Snorting or gasping in your sleep
- Morning headaches
- Feeling tired throughout the day
- Low mood, forgetfulness, and irritability
- High blood pressure that is resistant to treatment
Even if you are not experiencing sleep apnea symptoms, you can still benefit from discussing any sleep concerns with a medical professional.
A doctor will perform a physical examination, paying special attention to your nose and mouth. They will also note any other health conditions you may have or medications you take. They may ask your bed partner for their observations.
If your doctor suspects that you have sleep apnea, they may refer you to a sleep specialist for a sleep study, in which they measure your breathing and other signs while you sleep. Based on the results, your health team can develop an individualized care plan to help you stop snoring and treat any related conditions.
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Michael Breus, Ph.D - The Sleep Doctor is a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and one of only 168 psychologists to pass the Sleep Medical Specialty Board without going to medical school. Dr. Breus is a sought after lecturer and his knowledge is shared daily in major national media worldwide including Today, Dr. Oz, Oprah, and for fourteen years as the sleep expert on WebMD. Dr. Breus is the bestselling author of The Power of When, The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan and Good Night!