Are you whistling while you snooze? Or maybe your partner makes a bit of bedtime noise and you just want to help out. Snoring is nothing to be embarrassed about — nearly everyone snores occasionally.
But it can be frustrating when it happens. Thankfully, a host of expert-approved home remedies and medical solutions can help.
So why do people snore?
“When people sleep, their muscles relax — their throat relaxes,” explains Dr. Steven A. Thau, the division chief of the Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine Department at Phelps Hospital/Northwell Health in Sleepy Hollow, New York. “There’s a gravitational force at play that impinges on the soft portion of the airway above the Adam’s apple, above the trachea.”
When the tissue is relaxed enough to partially block the airway, airflow in and out can cause a vibration, leading to rattling and rumbling or even light rhythmic snuffling. But regular snoring can disrupt your Zzz’s — or your partner’s.
When it comes to the community, 44% of men and 28% of women ages 30 to 60 snore regularly. And, in some cases, it can be a health concern.
“There’s a spectrum of sleep disordered breathing,” says Dr. Joseph Schellenberg, a pulmonologist and sleep specialist at Lehigh Valley Health Network in Pennsylvania.
On one end is no snoring, just quiet breathing. Then on the other is severe sleep apnea, which requires medical treatment. In between is light snoring, snoring based on sleep position, and heavier snoring. The levels move up from there to snoring that is much more sleep disruptive to the individual.
How you move up and down the spectrum is based on acute and chronic risk factors, according to Schellenberg. Acute risk factors may include late-night booze consumption or a cold that’s causing congestion. Chronic risk factors could be having enlarged tonsils or a deviated septum or carrying extra weight. Acute risk factors can also make regular snoring a bit worse, but removing those factors may also help too.
We’ve asked the experts to help you identify the best solutions for you. But before you run to the store in hopes of an overnight fix, you may also want to talk to your doctor first. Some snoring causes, like sleep apnea, may require testing for an accurate diagnosis.
How to stop snoring: home remedies and anti-snoring devices
Open up nasal passages
Sometimes snoring is the result of stuffy and inflamed sinuses or post-nasal drip that can cause throat tissue to swell. Plus, when our nose is clogged, we have no choice but to breathe through our mouth, which can lead to a back-of-the-throat rasp. That’s why when it comes to addressing what might be causing your snoring in the short term, Thau says to start with your nose.
You can irrigate sinus passages to reduce airway irritation and snoring at night. “Nasal saline, a neti pot — you can’t go wrong there,” he adds. Both options will help mitigate congestion or a runny snout.
“If your sinuses are too wet, try to make them dry,” says Schellenberg. “And if they’re too dry, try to make them a little wet. You’re trying to optimize that balance.” You can increase moisture by adding a humidifier to your room if you live in a dry environment.
Remove allergens and treat allergies
Allergies can also be a snore trigger because they tend to inflame airways.
Banish dust mites with hypoallergenic bedding and pillows you can wash frequently in hot water. But also treat those sniffly symptoms. Thau says oral non-sedating antihistamines and steroid and antihistamine nasal sprays can help decrease tissue swelling if allergies are a root cause of nighttime reverberation.
But avoid nasal sprays that contain phenylephrine and oxymetazoline, which shrink the blood vessels. These nasal sprays damage the nose and can cause rebound congestion, making matters worse. Oral nasal decongestants should be avoided too, as they are known to cause insomnia.
Change your sleep position
Your sleep position — back, side, or stomach — can have an impact on whether you sleep noisily.
“For most people,” Schellenberg explains, “the back is going to be the worst position. The tongue and your jaw are like a drawer. If you’re on your side, the drawer can lay open. And if you’re on your back, the drawer is going to close.”
But belly sleeping can also cause the jaw and tongue to move backward, he added. So ultimately, side sleeping is your best bet to curb snoring.
Raise your head
If you’re a diehard back sleeper or you can’t lie on your side because of hip or shoulder pain, one option is to elevate your head.
You can gain some height with an adjustable base bed. Some bases automatically give you a boost if you're snoring, while others allow a partner to adjust without waking you up. A wedge pillow with a gentle slope can also help if you want to give head height a try before investing in a base. Or you can swap your pillow for one with more neck support and loft.
Just be careful not to raise your head too far. If your chin tips or tucks too far toward your chest, that can also exacerbate snoring, Schellenberg says.
A little elevation or changing your sleep position are good options if you think a prescription medication might be the cause of your snoring. Muscle relaxers and opioid pain meds can slacken airway muscles while you sleep. But Schellenberg says melatonin, a common over-the-counter sleep aid, shouldn’t have an effect on muscle tone or cause snoring.
Try oral devices
You can buy an over-the-counter mouthpiece or dental device that will pull your jaw forward and help keep your airway more open while you sleep. Thau mentions Zyppah as an example, but there are several options available online.
“I usually tell people to get the least expensive one at first,” he says, “just to see whether or not you’re going to be able to tolerate wearing something in your mouth overnight.” But if you’re congested and breathing through your mouth, an oral device won’t be effective.
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Natural lifestyle remedies for snoring
Watch what you eat before bed
Thau says to avoid noshing late at night and to skip out on fried foods or dishes that are high in carbohydrates too close to bedtime.
“The carbon dioxide production makes people more likely to burp or have reflux,” he says. “That will cause irritation in the back of the throat. That too will make the snoring worse. It just starts a whole vicious cycle.”
Avoid alcohol before bed
Alcohol consumption can lead to snoring in several ways, Thau explains. Alcohol weakens and relaxes throat muscles, and it slows the brain’s response. The latter can be problematic if snoring is impacting breathing, he adds, because it will take longer for someone to wake up and “rescue themselves.”
Smoking and vaping are both airway irritants. Both Thau and Schellenberg say that quitting is a good choice to help mitigate snoring as well as to boost overall health.
Although getting your regular seven to nine hours of sleep is not necessarily a snoring remedy, if you're sleep deprived you could be more likely to snore when your body tries to recover.
“Our muscle tone changes as we move through different stages of sleep,” Schellenberg explains. “Rapid eye movement sleep is when airway tone is the lowest. Certainly, people during sleep studies have more respiratory events during REM.” So the theory goes that if you’re sleep deprived, your brain might opt for extra REM recovery sleep, which may result in extra snoring.
Being overweight is a chronic risk factor for snoring. “The way the weight is deposited in the neck and at the base of the tongue makes snoring more likely,” Thau explains. Walking for just 30 minutes a day can help, he adds.
But it’s also important to know that snoring can affect anyone regardless of size. “There are skinny people who snore,” Schellenberg says.
When to see a doctor
The occasional snoring or heavy breathing because of a stuffy nose, a late night of toasting a friend’s birthday, or for other reasons, usually isn’t cause for medical concern. But if you are continually waking up feeling groggy, experiencing headaches, battling daytime sleepiness, or having difficulty with memory, focus, and concentration, then it’s time to see a doctor.
Those symptoms are often a reflection of disordered breathing that’s higher on the spectrum, Schellenberg says. If you do have a bedmate, you can also ask them if you tend to stop breathing while snoring.
Your physician may order a sleep study to see if you have one of several types of sleep apnea. When someone has sleep apnea, their breathing stops and starts repeatedly throughout the night. Sleep apnea can lead to health issues, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and even put you and others at risk for car accidents.
Medical treatments for snoring
Your doctor will recommend any appropriate medical treatments based on a sleep study or examination, but here are a few that might be considered.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
CPAP therapy is one of the most frequently prescribed treatments for sleep apnea. When using a CPAP machine, you wear a mask or nosepiece that delivers a steady stream of air pressure to keep your airways open while you sleep.
Some surgical procedures can also help with snoring. For example, laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty uses a carbon dioxide laser to remove part or all of the uvula and other soft palate tissue. “You won’t snore because there’s nothing vibrating to make the noise,” Thau explains. “But that is a sleep apnea surgery.” It’s not a treatment for the occasional snorer.
Some snoring surgeries have recently fallen out of favor, according to Thau and Schellenberg. One is palatal implants, a procedure in which short polyester rods are implanted to stiffen the soft palate. The other is somnoplasty, in which radiofrequency energy is used to reduce soft palate tissue.
Another consideration is whether your nose has a deviated septum, which can also cause snoring. If so, you can potentially get it surgically corrected via septoplasty, something Thau recommends. “Either it works, or it makes it more likely for something else to work,” he says. Correcting a deviated septum can help make treating sleep apnea easier, for example. It can also help alleviate congestion.
Custom dental devices
If you’ve tried an OTC oral appliance, you may wish to have a device custom fit. Talk to your doctor about options like the SomnoDent.
Can you rest easy as a snorer?
Ultimately none of us really sleeps as quiet as a church mouse all the time. Although snoring is super common, whether occasionally or regularly, it can also be super frustrating — either for the snorer or a snuggler who loves the said snorer.
“If you’re the snorer,” Schellenberg says, “and you’re awakening feeling refreshed and you have no daytime fatigue… then it’s honestly probably not a problem for you.”
But, even so, it may be worth considering some home remedies or lifestyle changes to appease a partner who might be “filing” for an amicable sleep divorce. But even if you hit the hay alone, snoring can interrupt your own slumber. The remedy that’s right for you will depend on what’s causing your airway to get its vibe on.
The time you should listen closer for the sounds of snores is when sleepiness leaks into your time awake. In this case, it’s crucial to see a doctor in case your snoring is sleep apnea. But ultimately, if you snuffle, snort, squeak, or sound like waves crashing on the beach while you sleep, you’ve got some good options to gain a quieter night.