This material is for information and support; not a substitute for professional advice.
How to Stop Snoring
cures, remedies, and tips for you and your partner
Just about everyone snores occasionally. Even a baby or a beloved pet may snore! But snoring can affect the quantity and quality of your sleep. Poor sleep can lead to daytime fatigue, irritability, and increased health problems. And, if your snoring is so loud that your bed partner can't sleep, you may end up banished from the bedroom.
Sleeping in separate bedrooms doesn’t have to be the remedy for your snoring. In fact, there are many effective treatments for snoring. Discovering the cause of your snoring and finding the right cure will vastly improve your health, your relationships, and, of course, your sleep.
The causes of snoring: Identify the cause to find the cure
Have you ever sneezed one day from allergies then sneezed another day from a bad cold? Snoring is like that. In other words, not all snoring is the same. Everyone snores for different reasons. When we get to the bottom of why we snore, then we can find the right solutions to a quieter, deeper sleep.
People who snore often have too much throat and nasal tissue, or “floppy” tissue that is more prone to vibrate. The position of your tongue can also get in the way of smooth breathing. Evaluating how and when you snore will help you pinpoint whether the cause of your snoring is within your control or not. The good news is that no matter how and when you snore, there are solutions to making it better.
Where does the snore sound come from?
Snoring is caused by a narrowing of your airway, either from poor sleep posture or abnormalities of the soft tissues in your throat. A narrow airway gets in the way of smooth breathing and creates the sound of snoring.
Common causes of snoring
Although it may be upsetting to think that there could be problems at the root of you or your bed buddy’s snoring, it’s important to get to the bottom of it. When you do, you’ll protect your health, and the intimacy of your relationship.
Age. As you reach middle age and beyond, your throat becomes narrower, and the muscle tone in your throat decreases.
The way you’re built. Men have narrower air passages than women and are more likely to snore. A narrow throat, a cleft palate, enlarged adenoids, and other physical attributes (which contribute to snoring) can be hereditary.
Nasal and sinus problems. Blocked airways make inhalation difficult and create a vacuum in the throat, leading to snoring.
Being overweight or out of shape. Fatty tissue and poor muscle tone contribute to snoring.
Alcohol, smoking, and medications. Alcohol intake, smoking (or second-hand smoke), and certain medications, increase muscle relaxation leading to more snoring.
Sleep posture. Sleeping flat on your back causes the flesh of your throat to relax and block the airway.
Snoring and sleep apnea
Snoring could indicate sleep apnea, a potentially life-threatening condition that requires medical attention. Sleep apnea is a breathing obstruction, causing the sleeper to awaken to begin breathing again. A person with sleep apnea wakes up many times a night to regain breathing, but usually doesn’t remember it. Serious risks of sleep apnea include sleep deprivation, oxygen deprivation, and depression.
Is snoring causing a riff in your relationship? No matter how much you love each other, lack of sleep can strain a relationship and put your health at risk. Though some snoring is harmless, other times it can indicate poor quality sleep as well as critical health problems such as sleep apnea.
Sharing a bed is one of the greatest pleasures of a romantic relationship because it fosters intimacy and closeness. Bedding down for the night should be a pleasant part of the evening that you and your partner look forward to. However, snoring can create a huge relationship roadblock because it prevents this joint end-of-day ritual. When snoring is a problem, relationship tension grows in the following ways.
Sleeping alone. If your partner snores, you might decide to sleep alone. That only makes for a lack of physical intimacy and a strained relationship. And if you’re the one snoring, you might feel lonely, isolated, and frustrated about something you feel you can’t control.
Snoring spats. It’s common to be irritable when lack of sleep is an issue. But try reining in your frustration. Remember, you want to attack the snoring problem—not your sleep partner.
Partner resentment. Partner resentment can grow when a non-snorer feels they do everything possible to sleep through the night (ear-plugs, noise-machines) but their partner does nothing to combat their own snoring. Working as a team to self-remedy will prevent future fights.
If you value your relationship, make it your priority to solve snoring so you can sleep together. Think of it like this: the way you and your bed buddy handle a snoring problem is a sign of the strength of your relationship. Working together to stop snoring can be an opportunity to improve the quality of your bond and become more connected.
So you love everything about your partner…except their snoring. It’s normal. Even the most patient amongst us will draw the line at sleep deprivation. But no matter how much sleep is lost due to secondhand snoring, it’s important to handle the problem sensitively. Remember that your partner likely feels vulnerable, isolated, and even a little embarrassed. And although it can be healthy for the relationship to communicate those vulnerabilities, it can be hurtful if done in an uncaring way. The following tips can help you approach your partner about his or her snoring.
Time your talk carefully. Avoid middle of the night or early morning discussions when you’re feeling exhausted.
Keep in mind it’s not intentional. Although it’s easy to feel like a victim when you lose sleep, remember that your partner isn’t keeping you awake on purpose.
Avoid lashing out. Sure sleep deprivation is aggravating and can be damaging to your health, but try your best to approach the problem in a non-confrontational way.
Beware of bitterness. Make sure that latching onto snoring is not an outlet for other hidden resentments you’re harboring.
Use humor and playfulness to bring up the subject without hurting your partner’s feelings. Laughing about it can ease tension. Just make sure it doesn’t turn into too much teasing.
Dealing with complaints about your snoring
It’s common to be caught off guard—not to mention a little hurt—about your snoring. After all, you probably don’t even realize it’s happening. And although it might seem silly that snoring can cause such relationship turmoil, it’s a common and a very real problem. If you dismiss your partner’s concerns and refuse to try to solve the problem, you’re sending a clear message to your partner that you don’t care about their needs. This could mean your relationship is in trouble, and that’s a bigger problem than the snoring.
Keep the following in mind as you and your partner work together to beat snoring.
Snoring is a physical issue. Typically, snorers feel a little embarrassed about their problem. Try to keep in mind that snoring is a physical issue. Like a pulled muscle or a common cold, improving the condition is in your hands.
Avoid taking it personally. Try not to take your partner’s frustration as a personal critique or attack. Your partner loves you, just not the snoring.
Take your partner seriously. Avoid minimizing complaints. Lack of sleep is a health hazard and can make you feel miserable all day.
Make it clear that you prioritize the relationship. If you and your partner have this understanding, you’ll both do what it takes to make the snoring better.
Address inappropriate behavior. Although sleep deprivation can lead to moodiness and irritability, let your partner know that it’s not okay for them to throw an elbow jab or snap at you when you’re snoring.
Self-help tips and snoring remedies
The good news is that there are is a lot you can do to stop snoring. Just be prepared to summon some patience, do a little detective work, and troubleshoot to try different remedies. Likely your snoring won’t go away over night, but keep at it. With a little teamwork, you and your partner can combat noisy nights together.
Begin getting to the bottom of a snoring problem by enlisting your non-snoring sleep partner to keep a sleep diary to help you sleuth the possible causes of your snoring. Monitoring the snoring will help diagnose why you snore and how to stop it.
How you snore reveals why you snore
It’s crucial to note to the different ways you sleep and snore. Sleep positions reveal a lot, and figuring out how you snore can reveal why you snore. When you know why you snore, you can get closer to a cure.
Closed-mouth snoring may indicate a problem with the tongue.
Open-mouth snoring may be related to the tissues in your throat.
Snoring when sleeping on back is probably mild – improved sleep habits and lifestyle changes may be effective cures.
Snoring in all sleep positions can mean snoring is more severe and may require a more comprehensive treatment.
Troubleshoot to stop snoring
So you’ve tried different sleeping positions and you still suffer from noisy nights? Try the following self-help tips.
Lose weight. Losing even a little bit of weight can reduce fatty tissue in the back of the throat and decrease snoring. See Healthy Weight Loss Your Way for some tips on getting started. Exercise in general can help because toning arms, legs, and abs inadvertently leads to toning muscles you don’t see in the throat, which leads to less snoring.
Clear nasal passages. Having a stuffy nose makes inhalation difficult and creates a vacuum in your throat, which in turn leads to snoring. You can do it naturally with a Neti pot or try nasal decongestants or nasal strips to help you breathe more easily while sleeping.
Quit smoking. If you smoke, your chances of snoring are high. Smoking causes airways to be blocked by irritating the membranes in the nose and throat.
Establish regular sleep patterns. Create a bedtime ritual with your partner and stick to it. Hitting the sack in a routine way together can promote better sleep and therefore minimize snoring.
Keep bedroom air moist with a humidifier. Dry air can irritate membranes in the nose and throat.
Reposition. Elevating your head four inches may ease breathing and encourage your tongue and jaw to move forward. (Tip: go pillow-free or try a specially designed pillow to make sure your neck muscles are not crimped).
Tip: The tennis ball trick
Do you sleep on your back? Try the “tennis ball trick”: sleep with a tennis ball (or similar sized ball) attached to the back of your pajama top. (You can sew or safety-pin a sock to the back of the pajama top, then put a tennis ball in it.) The tennis ball is uncomfortable if you lie on your back, and you will respond by turning on your side. Soon you will develop side-sleeping as a habit and not need the tennis ball.
Reduce snoring by avoiding the following substances
Research shows that consumption of certain foods and medicines right before bedtime can make snoring worse. Placing a household ban on the following snore-hazards right before bedtime can make for quieter nights.
Sleeping pills and other relaxants
Throat exercises to stop snoring
Done 30 minutes a day, throat exercises can be a cost-effective snore-reducer for people with mild to moderate sleep apnea. Studies show that by pronouncing certain vowel sounds and curling the tongue in specific ways, muscles in the upper respiratory tract are strengthened and therefore reduce snoring.
Try the following exercises to stop snoring. Start slow and gradually increase the number of sets you do every few days.
Repeat each vowel (a-e-i-o-u) out loud for three minutes throughout day.
Place the tip of your tongue behind your top front teeth. Slide your tongue backwards for 3 minutes a day
Close your mouth and purse your lips. Hold for 30 seconds.
With mouth open, move jaw to the right and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on left side
With mouth open, contract the muscle at the back of your throat repeatedly for 30 seconds. Tip: Look in the mirror to see the uvula (“the hanging ball”) move up and down.
Alternative remedies for snoring
Singing – Singing can increase muscle control in the throat and soft palate, reducing snoring caused by lax muscles.
Playing the didgeridoo – Thinking of taking up a new instrument? Studies show that learning to play a didgeridoo can strengthen the soft palate and throat, reducing snoring.
Medical cures and treatments for snoring
If the self-helps aren’t silencing your noisy bedroom, don’t abandon hope. Medical treatments could make all the difference. Luckily, advances are being made all the time and devices are becoming more effective and more comfortable. So even if your doctor recommended something in the past that was uncomfortable or didn’t work, that doesn’t mean the same will be true now.
Medical remedies for snoring
When your own efforts to stop snoring do not help, consult your physician or an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat doctor, otherwise known as an ENT). If you choose to try a dental appliance for your snoring, you will need to see a dentist specializing in these devices.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). To keep your airway open during sleep, a machine at your bedside blows pressurized air into a mask that you wear over your nose or face.
Dental appliances, oral devices, and lower jaw-positioners often resemble an athlete’s mouth guard. They help open your airway by bringing your lower jaw or your tongue forward during sleep.
Traditional surgery such asUvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), Thermal Ablation Palatoplasty (TAP), tonsillectomy, and adenoidectomy, increase the size of your airway by surgically removing tissues or correcting abnormalities. The Pillar procedure is also an effective surgery in which small plastic implants are inserted into the soft palate. Scar tissue grows around the implants, stiffening the soft palate, which stops vibrations that cause snoring.
New developments. Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) and somnoplasty remove parts of the soft palate to reduce snoring using lasers or radiofrequency signals. These newer remedies may require further study.
When to see a doctor
Some snoring indicates a serious warning sign. Call your doctor if your sleep partner shows any of the following red flags.
Snores loudly and heavily and is tired during the day
Stops breathing, gasps, or chokes during sleep
Falls asleep at inappropriate times, such as during a conversation or a meal