Almost everyone, including half of the adult population, will snore at some point in their life. However if the problem becomes chronic it can have a negative effect on an individual’s quality of life.
Along with disturbing others, such as a spouse or family members, the abrasive and rough sounds of snoring also causes problems for the affected individual. Lack of quality sleep, irritability, declining health and fatigue are common side effects experienced by people who snore.
If snoring becomes bad enough it often ends up affecting the relationship of all the people involved. Fortunately, there are many options available to individuals who snore to reduce or eliminate the issue without resorting to sleeping away from others.
Know the Causes
While there are many different reasons why individuals snore, the main cause is inhibited breathing while the afflicted person sleeps.
When someone breathes normally while sleeping, air flows through the tissues of the nose and throat without any issues. However, as a person who snores sleeps, air does not pass smoothly through the nose and throat due to a partial obstruction. This causes a vibration in the tissues of the nose and throat that results in the irritating and unpleasant sounds associated with snoring. In addition, snoring sufferers typically have excessive and floppy throat and nasal tissues, making the problem even worse.
Here are some other direct causes of snoring:
- Nose and sinus irritation. When tissues in the nose and other airways swell they become “stuffed up” and blocked, which leads to snoring due to inhalation issues.
- Carrying excess weight and poor fitness. Carrying too much fatty tissue and lacking sufficient muscle tone are major factors for why some individuals snore. In fact, having too much weight in the neck and throat area increases the possibility of snoring even if an individual is not overweight.
- Posture during sleep. The muscles of the throat tend to relax when individuals sleep on their backs, leading to blocked airways and snoring.
- The aging process. A narrowing of the throat occurs as a natural part of the aging process. This, combined with muscles of the throat losing their tone during middle age, contributes to snoring.
- The build of specific individuals. Because of the wide breathing passages they possess, women are less likely to snore than men. Similarly, individuals with inherited physical features such as enlarged tonsils, a cleft palate or a narrow throat may suffer with snoring.
- Medication, alcohol and smoking. Snoring increases when muscles in the throat relax as a result of taking specific medications such as Valium and Ativan, as well as drinking alcohol and smoking regularly.
Home Remedies and Over the Counter Solutions for Snoring
There are no simple permanent cures for snoring, however there are numerous home remedies that help to alleviate the problem temporarily without using extreme measures.
Peppermint contains powerful compounds that shrinks swollen tissues in the nose and throat. This anti-inflammatory action helps to relieve snoring caused by dry or cold air as well as allergies.
- Gargle daily with two drops of peppermint oil added to a glass of water until breathing improves, being very careful not to swallow any of the mixture.
- Add a few drops of peppermint oil to a running humidifier before bed. The resulting vapor helps to ease breathing by opening up block airways.
- Rubbing some peppermint oil into the corners of the nose helps to calm inflamed nasal tissues.
- Olive Oil
Olive oil reduces inflammation and vibrations in the respiratory tract, which improves breathing while reducing soreness.
- Take one or two sips of plain olive oil or half a teaspoon of the oil mixed with honey before bed each night.
Reduce congestion and subsequent snoring by inhaling steam.
- Fill a bowl with boiling water.
- Add three drops of tea tree or eucalyptus oil to the bowl.
- Use a large towel to make a “tent” over the head, inhaling deeply for approximately 10 minutes.
- Repeat each night until congestion clears.
- Clarified Butter
The medicinal properties contained in clarified butter, or ghee, help to open up blocked nostrils and reduce snoring.
- Heat a dab of clarified butter in the microwave.
- Drop two or three drops into each nostril daily, each morning and before going to bed.
An effective remedy for clearing blocked airways that cause snoring is cardamom because it acts as both a decongestant and expectorant.
- Combine water and half a teaspoon of cardamom powder.
- Consume the mixture every day, half an hour before bed.
Turmeric reduces inflammation in the tissues of the nose and throat while boosting the immune system. The antibiotic and antiseptic properties of this compound helps to stop chronic snoring.
- Combine a glass of milk with two teaspoons of turmeric powder.
- Drink the mixture every day, approximately half an hour before bed time.
Nettle is an effective anti-inflammatory remedy for temporary allergy-related snoring brought about by seasonal changes.
- Combine a cup of boiling water with a tablespoon of dried nettle leaves and let it steep for five minutes before straining the mixture.
- Drink the tea two or three times every day (have one cup before going to sleep).
Eat garlic to relieve sinus related snoring caused by excess mucus.
- Include lots of garlic in evening meals, making sure to consume the food hot.
- Eat one or two garlic cloves every day before going to sleep, followed by a glass of water.
The anti-inflammatory properties of chamomile help to reduce snoring while improving sleep quality.
- Combine a cup of boiling water with a tablespoon of chamomile flowers and steep for approximately 15 minutes.
- Strain the liquid and mix it with a spoonful of honey.
- Drink the tea before bed time while it is still warm
Honey is a powerful anti-inflammatory home remedy. It opens up blocked airways by reducing swelling and moisturizing the tissues of the throat.
- Drink a glass of warm water or tea mixed with a spoonful of honey every night.
- Use a tennis ball
The tennis ball remedy helps to reduce snoring in persons who experience it while sleeping on their back. It encourages side-sleeping by preventing the individual from feeling comfortable while lying on their back.
- Sew the pocket of an old shirt to the middle of the back of a close-fitting pajama top.
- Put a regulation sized tennis ball into the pocket before going to sleep.
- Use a humidifier or vaporizer
Humidifiers and vaporizers add moisture to the air and mucus membranes, which reduces nose and throat irritation and congestion. Well-moisturized tissues create clearer breathing passages and reduce the vibrations that cause snoring.
- Lose excess weight
Overweigh people are much more prone to snoring than people of normal weight. Losing even a small amount of weight (ten percent) with a healthy diet and regular exercise helps. It opens upper airways and makes breathing much easier, reducing the severity of snoring.
- Sleep with the head of the bed raised
Elevating the head of the bed (with boards or books) by approximately four inches prevents snoring by keeping the tongue from obstructing airways during sleep.
- Prop up with pillows
If it is not possible to elevate the bed, propping up with pillows is a viable alternative. Sleep with several pillows under the back to keep breathing passages clear and tissues from blocking airways during sleep.
- Keep a clean house
Stop allergy induced snoring by keeping a clean house. Clean regularly, vacuum thoroughly and change air filters, sheets and pillow cases frequently. This reduces the levels of pet dander, pollen and dust and improves indoor air quality.
- Do pranayama yoga exercise
Pranayama yoga, which helps people to control their breathing, helps reduce the symptoms of snoring and related conditions such as sleep apnea while increasing oxygen levels throughout the body.
- Do throat and tongue exercises
Improving the tone of the muscles in the throat and tongue helps to reduce snoring by keeping the tissues taut, which prevents them from falling back into airways.
- Sing loudly several times during the day to exercise the throat.
- Extend the tongue out as far and as straight as possible before returning it to the mouth. Repeat the movement ten times.
- Try to touch the chin with the tongue before returning it to the mouth. Repeat the movement ten times.
- Try to touch the nose with the tongue by extending it as much as possible before returning it to the mouth and repeat ten times.
- Do not use sedatives or alcohol
Excessive relaxation of tissues in the throat after drinking alcohol or taking sedatives leads to heavy snoring due to blocked breathing passages.
- Sleep in the fetal position
Side sleeping is an effective way to keep soft tissue in the throat from falling back and blocking airways. Try hugging a pillow during sleep to stay in the position all night.
- Avoid heavy meals before bedtime
Stop eating at least three hours before going to sleep. Excessive food in the stomach at bedtime encourages throat muscles to relax, which leads to snoring.
- Quit smoking
Smoking has an irritating effect on mucous membranes and can lead to congestion, which makes snoring issues worse. Quit smoking to improve breathing and keep airways clear of inflammation.
- Discuss prescription medication
Certain medications can contribute to a snoring problem, and in some cases, make matters worse. Discuss medications with a doctor and switch out any snore-inducing prescriptions for suitable replacements.
- Take herbal pills for snoring
Use natural remedies such as pills formulated with enzymes and other compounds designed to eliminate snoring by reducing inflammation that leads to nasal congestion.
- Take a decongestant
Nasal congestion is one of the major causes of snoring. Take an antihistamine or decongestant to reducing swelling in mucus membranes to ease snoring.
- Use nasal strips
Designed to open the nostrils from the outside in order to increase breathing capacity, nasal strips help reduce congestion related snoring.
- Sleep with a neck brace
Keep upper airways open by wearing a foam or plastic neck brace to bed each night. This simple device, which is available at medical supply stores and pharmacies, keeps the chin extended and prevents breathing passages from becoming blocked.
- Use a mouthpiece
A mouthpiece (also called a mandibular advancement splint or dental appliance) provided by a dentist or sleep therapist helps to realign the lower jaw and lift the soft palate. This positioning keeps flabby tissues from falling back and blocking breathing passages during sleep.
- Use a nasal rinse
A nasal rinse or nasal irrigation helps to open up blocked nostrils. This allows air to flow freely through the passage and reduces snoring. After taking a hot shower to help break up congestion, rinse nasal passages thoroughly using a neti pot and a saltwater solution.
- Nasal Valves
Recently approved by the FDA, and available for purchase over the counter, nasal valves (also called nasal patches) treat snoring and sleep apnea by opening up airways and increasing breathing capacity during sleep.
- Determine the cause of snoring
The way an individual snores provides clues to the root of the problem and the best way of treating it.
- Snoring while lying on the back can typically be resolved with better lifestyle choices and sleeping habits.
- Snoring no matter which position an individual lays in may indicate a serious medical issue which calls for in-depth investigation and advanced treatment options.
- Multifactoral snoring
If a snoring issue cannot be traced to a single cause, but rather stems from two or more problems such as obesity and mouth breathing, this is known as multifactorial snoring.
- Palatal flutter
The tendency for the soft tissues of the throat to vibrate while asleep and breathing deeply is known as the “palatal flutter”. If there are no issues with excess body weight, this is often the cause of snoring in an individual.
Use the following tests to figure out what is causing a specific type of snoring:
- Nose test
To check for the openness of the nostrils, hold one side of the nose down and breathe in through the other nostril while the mouth remains closed. Repeat this process on the other nostril. Individuals that show signs of nasal collapse and blockage during this test, benefit from using nasal dilators to improve breathing.
Problems breathing out of the nose in general may indicate a problem with allergies and nasal passages blocked by swollen tissues and excessive mucus.
- Mouth breathing test
Use this test to check for snoring issues related to sleeping with the mouth open. Try to make a snoring noise with the mouth open. Next, try to make the noise again while the mouth is completely closed. The snoring sound only happening with the mouth open is a sign of mouth breathing during sleep.
- Tongue test
Extend the tongue as much as possible while holding it between the teeth and try to make a snoring sound. If unsuccessful, snoring may be related to the base of the tongue blocking upper airways during sleep, which usually happens with the mouth closed.
- Body Mass Index (BMI) test
Use the body mass index test to check for overweight (BMI over 25) and obesity (BMI over 30). Both conditions contribute to problems with snoring, which can be reduced by losing weight. To calculate, divide weigh in pounds by inches in height.
Medical Options and Treatments for Snoring
If after exhausting home remedies and over the counter treatments an individual is no closer to finding relief, the next best step is visiting a doctor (called an ENT or otolaryngologist) that specializes in treating disorders of the ear, nose and throat.
The specialist may recommend the use of one of the following treatment options:
This treatment, which requires being put under local anesthesia, removes excess tissues from areas of the throat such as the uvula and soft palate using radiofrequency heat at low levels. The procedure, which takes less than an hour, dramatically reduces or eliminates the vibrations that cause snoring.
- Palatal Implants
During this treatment (also known as the “Pillar procedure”), small implants made of plastic are inserted into the soft palate. This stops snoring issues by preventing the tissues from blocking airways in the throat.
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
If someone has problems keeping airways open while sleeping, a CPAP machine can be used nightly to prevent breathing issues. A mask (worn either over the nose or entire face) delivers pressurized air that keeps breathing passages open throughout the night.
There are several types of surgery that an individual who snores benefits from having depending on the cause of their snoring.
- Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)
- Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP)
- Thermal Ablation Palatoplasty (TAP)
Each of these procedures improve breathing and opens up airways by removing excessive tissues or fixing issues located in the treatment area. After surgery, tissues in the throat get stiffer as they heal, which helps to further reduce the vibrations associated with snoring.
When to See a Doctor
Chronic snoring can signal serious health issues such as sleep apnea and other disorders related to impaired breathing during sleep. This situation has the potential to become extremely dangerous as sleep apnea reduces oxygen levels in the body and increases the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and depression. Long-term effects include an enlarged heart and high blood pressure.
If someone experiences the following problems while sleeping they should consult their physician immediately and seek a detailed diagnosis:
- Gasping for air
- Stops breathing while sleeping
- Falling asleep randomly at unusual times of the day
- Excessive fatigue after a night of heavy snoring
The doctor may reference a sleep specialist who orders a home or clinic-based sleep test to assess sleep related breathing problems, before deciding on a specific course of treatment.