How to Stop Snoring

Snoring is the noise produced when moving air causes structures in the nose, mouth and throat to vibrate, which is especially likely to happen if the airway is narrowed for any reason. If nasal passages are partly blocked, the sleeper must breathe through the mouth, which promotes snoring. Relaxed muscles often cause snoring when the tissues at the back of the mouth and throat collapse.

To address snoring, first figure out where the vibration originates, and whether you snore through your nose or mouth. An ear, nose and throat specialist can identify whether the source is the nose, the palate or throat, or even a combination of those possibilities. Once you have pinpointed your type of snoring, you can address the problem directly.

Is Your Nose Clear?

Nasal blockage can be caused by swelling and discharge resulting from a cold, allergy, or environmental irritant. Growths in the passages, such as nasal polyps (which can be surgically removed), can also obstruct breathing. In the event of swollen tissues, a good first step is to eliminate airborne irritants from your environment.

Try closing your bedroom windows and filtering your air. Dust all surfaces in your bedroom using a product that makes dust adhere to the duster rather than fly around, then vacuum the floor. Also vacuum any carpet, curtains, and other types of pile or fabric.

If you suspect allergies, an allergist can identify the substance that triggers the reaction so you can remove it from your bedroom. Some people find that old pillows harbor allergens like dust, dust mites, or animal dander, so wash your pillow frequently and buy a new one at regular intervals.

If the snoring comes from temporary sinus congestion, try a decongestant or antihistamine. Do not use those products for more than two weeks. If your congestion persists, see your doctor: the condition may results from a sinus infection that requires treatment with antibiotics.

The goal is to soothe nasal tissues. Cool, moist air is least irritating and hot, dry air most irritating to breathe, so it is recommended that you use a humidifier plus a little air-conditioning, if that is needed to cool the air. Because air conditioning dries the air, keep its use to a minimum, and remember to keep the machine's filters clean.

If you're still smoking, you may find that quitting helps. Smoking irritates nasal tissues, producing swelling and mucus. Avoid second-hand smoke. Always drink water to ensure sufficient hydration, which loosens nasal secretions and prevents a clogged nose.

Water can help in other ways. Inhaling steam can clear the nose, so try a hot bath or shower before bed. You can simply breathe the steam from a pot of boiling water, and some people recommend using salt water for that purpose.

Also recommended is a saline spray or rinse for nasal passages. A neti pot will do the job, but be very careful to use only distilled or sterilized water due to the threat of amoebic infection (the so-called "brain-eating amoeba"). You can also lubricate your throat by swallowing one teaspoon of honey just before you go to bed.

Behavioral Changes

Change Your Sleep Position

Let gravity work for you in keeping your throat open. If you sleep on your side, that will draw the tongue away from the back of the throat. Sleeping on your back can be the sole cause of snoring, so try to maintain the sideways position throughout the night. You can sew a tennis or golf ball into your pajama shirts to make rolling onto your back uncomfortable, or use a specially designed body pillow to encourage the sideways position.

Try piling up a stack of pillows to support your head. If your mouth is open, that promotes snoring, so make sure your pillow does not push your neck up while letting your head fall back. Use a very firm pillow. If you like, you can experiment with a commercial product called an anti-snoring pillow (firm feel, various shapes), but try the ordinary firm pillow first.

Another recommendation is to incline your bed so your head is lifted. If you're comfortable sleeping that way, give it a try. You can place cinder blocks under your upper bedposts, phone books under your mattress, or devise some other means of support.

If you can afford it, there are mechanical beds that elevate the top half of the bed (like those used in a hospital setting) that do the lifting with a hand crank or electric motor. Or you can find do-it-yourself instructions for inclined bed modifications by searching for the term "inclined bed therapy."

Lose Weight

Fatty deposits around the neck can narrow your airway enough to cause snoring. If you've ever listened to a very obese person try to breathe, you will realize much of the wheezing sound you hear comes from a compressed airway. Lie down on your back and look at yourself in the mirror: do you see fat bunched under your chin? The fat is pressing on your throat while you're in that position.

Avoid Substances That Relax Muscles

Alcohol, sedatives, and drugs promoting deep sleep can all cause snoring. Even excessive tiredness can have that same effect. If you tone your tongue and throat muscles, they will have less of a tendency to let loose tissues flop into the airway during sleep.

Do Not Eat Too Much Before Bedtime

Any food that impairs your digestion, whether because of quantity, richness, or heat and spice can promote snoring. Eating too much pushes up on your diaphragm and spicy food increases mucus production. Avoid dairy products, because they thicken mucus.

The foregoing dietary recommendations should be followed in the later hours of the day, especially during the three hours prior to your bedtime.

Shrink Airway Tissues

There are various preparations that can shrink tissues in the mouth, nose and throat. Peppermint mouthwash is one option. The problem with using them is the same as you'd experience with decongestants or antihistamines, in that their effectiveness usually diminishes quickly over time.

There are many "patent medicines" available in the form of anti-snoring rinses and sprays for the nose and throat, but don't invest heavily in any of them until you've verified their safety and effectiveness.

Sleep Accessories

There are many different varieties of head and mouth gear intended to stop snoring. The professional-quality plastic mouthpieces that realign the jaw and change the position of the tongue are prescribed by dentists, usually for sleep apnea. They are designed to hold the airway open during the night, and can be difficult to sleep with until you become accustomed to their presence.

You can also try a commercial product, but it would be best to seek a dentist's advice to make sure the mouthpiece you choose has no adverse effects on your bite. Some chin straps hold the mouth closed, thus preventing mouth breathing.

Exercises to Tone Muscles

If the muscles of your mouth and throat are strengthened through exercise, they're less likely to let tissues fall together while you sleep. You can find any number of exercises to enhance muscle tone in the mouth, throat, and tongue.

If you're musically inclined, try playing a wind instrument like the didgeridoo, which is frequently recommended. Even singing may have some toning benefit.

Over-the-Counter Remedies

Surgery

Surgery is a drastic option to correct snoring. It is available, but should be considered only as a last resort. Any surgery is potentially dangerous, and surgical procedures to shrink or remove tissue in the nose, mouth or throat can even worsen the problem if the new configuration does not work well (the usual problem is further constriction of the airway due to scar tissue, but there are other possibilities).

If you are determined to seek surgical treatment, many of the surgeries recommended for sleep apnea will also address simple snoring to some degree. Some experts believe removing the uvula will not help, and the uvula should be left in place, but there is disagreement on this point. If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, of which snoring is a frequent symptom, then consulting a physician is a must.