If you’re anything like me, the sound of snoring can inspire a fit of rage that would make parents on the sidelines of a peewee soccer game seem sane. As a light sleeper, even the slightest noise can prevent me from falling asleep, igniting a fury of anger and anxiety that practically consumes my entire body.
So you can probably imagine the pure joy and excitement (sarcasm) I felt going into a week-long Alaskan cruise with my snoring-notorious, former linebacker of a father. A 224-square-foot room with side-by-side twin beds was not on my list of 2023 “must-dos,” but I’m apparently in my Mother Theresa era and sacrificed comfort to ensure that he enjoyed his long-awaited dream vacation.
In the interest of science and my sanity, I decided to use this opportunity to test five popular snoring blockers to see which effectively drowned out the gasping, grumbling, and whistling I’d be subjected to throughout the night.
While some made a significant difference in masking these truly intolerable sounds, only one came out on top. Check out how they stacked up below, in order of least to most effective, as well as some medical opinions and expert advice from audiologist Dr. Emily Taylor, founder of Baltimore-based The Taylor Listening Center.
One of my best friends in Los Angeles swears by these malleable, wax-like silicone earplugs to suppress the noise of traffic, sirens, and rants from D-list celebrities who didn’t receive their correct Starbucks order, but they did absolutely nothing for me. In fact, no matter how far I jammed them into my ear canal, they kept falling out with every turn of the head. Sure, it could be that I have abnormal auditory anatomy, but I felt like Play-Doh would have even been more successful. So this was, unsurprisingly, a giant “no” from me and went straight into the trashcan after night one.
While this was something I’m grateful to have purchased for my own apartment (it muffles typical city commotion quite well), it didn’t work to sufficiently block snoring. Instead, it almost felt like it was singing backup vocals to a snoring man in dire need of a CPAP machine, a.k.a. my dad. I will say, however, that the consistent noise grew to be very relaxing, creating an almost ASMR tingly feeling if I really closed my eyes and concentrated on it. But even then, it kind of terrified me because I kept thinking about that stupid White Noise movie with Michael Keaton where his dead wife was trying to communicate with him through TV and radio static. Spirits and demons? Ain’t nobody got time for that, especially as I’m trying to get some much-needed shut-eye.
Dr. Taylor’s Medical Opinion: This is a great option if listening at a safe volume and if your partner doesn't mind listening, as well. Try using a noise you both find enjoyable, such as rainfall or the ocean.”
I give foam earplugs a solid C. They’re my go-to solution while traveling because they can, for the most part, prevent me from hearing more subtle noises like car horns, elevators, and doors closing. But when it comes to experiencing an orchestra of trapped airways in the same room… no, ma’am. The trick, I found, was to wear these foam earplugs while keeping the white noise machine turned on. That way you can attack snoring with two lines of defense, which ultimately helped me to fall asleep, but not stay asleep. That said, these work exceptionally well if you simply want to silence your surroundings on an airplane or in a library to focus on getting work done, taking a nap, or sitting with your thoughts.
Dr. Taylor’s Medical Opinion: “This is my favorite option for maximum sound reduction and comfort. Be sure to roll between your fingers first to compress as much as possible; then, while inserting into the ear canal, try lifting up on the top of your ear to straighten out your ear canal. Be sure to move quickly because the insert will start to expand right away.
Admittedly, Apple stepped up their game with newer noise-canceling models that I haven’t coughed up the money to buy. But the reality is that literally millions of us are still dependent upon our third, second, and even first-generation AirPods to stream music from our phones. So, I decided to download the Calm app and shuffle through sleep stories and relaxing sounds to lull me to sleep.
Surprisingly, this did work for the most part. And the AirPods were a lot more comfortable and secure in my ears than I thought they would be. But the battery life wouldn’t last through an entire evening, so after a few hours of easy listening, five to be exact, I awoke to — you guessed it — more snoring.
Dr. Taylor’s Medical Opinion: “These could be uncomfortable if side sleeping, and have a high chance of falling out in the middle of the night. Also, the battery might not last for the duration of sleeping. If using, be sure to listen at a safe volume.”
I have come to the conclusion that no snore-blocking option is going to be perfect. Some people, like me, are — and will always be — extremely sensitive to any type of noise, but I was pretty dang impressed with these Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II. And for their high $299 price point, I definitely should have been — they tout “quiet comfort” in their name, after all. The earpieces, which can be adjusted for comfort, sync with the Bose Connect app so that you can toggle between Aware and Quiet modes. The former is meant to minimize loud sounds but have users stay alert to the world around them, while the latter touts complete noise cancellation. Its battery also lasted a whopping six hours, which may be lower than the recommended seven to eight that you need for a good night’s rest, but it certainly survived longer than the early-generation AirPods.
The only downside with these was that they were terribly uncomfortable for a side sleeper like myself. They tended to fall out in the middle of the night and pressed so deeply into my ears that I actually woke up in pain a couple of times. But alas, desperate times called for desperate measures, and I was more than willing to suffer through temporary soreness over complete sleep deprivation. They’re not going to be a long-term solution, but they’re a fantastic option for a quick trip with a less-than-ideal sleeping arrangement.
Dr. Taylor’s Medical Opinion: “Like AirPods, these could have issues with comfort, retention, and battery life. Also, be sure to listen at a safe volume.”
Snoring Blocker FAQs
With so many snoring blocker options available, it’s normal for questions to arise before shelling out your hard-earned cash. We asked Taylor some of the most common so you can make a purchase that you’ll feel happy about. Check them out below.
Q: What should someone keep in mind before relying on a snoring blocker to reduce noise?
1. How loud is the snoring blocker if you are choosing an option that makes sound? Be sure to listen at a safe volume, especially if listening for the duration of sleep. Under 80dB is considered safe. Also, make sure you would be able to hear emergency sounds, such as the fire alarm or a crying child.
2. If you are inserting something in your ears, consider how comfortable it will be and avoid corded plugs.
3. If audible, will your snoring blocker solution bother your partner? Look for a solution that makes everyone happy!
Q; Why do you think the foam earplug is the most effective snoring blocker?
They are comfortable, won't bother your partner, effective and inexpensive. The only catch is that they can be difficult to insert and are only effective when worn properly. Luckily, foam inserts come in so many different shapes and sizes. I prefer a tapered style such as this one.
Q: Is there anything else that snoring sufferers should keep in mind?
If you generate an abundance of earwax, avoid using an option that goes deep in your ear canal — like a foam insert, this could potentially pack in your wax further. Not sure if you have a lot of earwax? Have your primary care doctor check at your next visit, or purchase an at-home ear camera so you can safely monitor the status of your ear canals.
No matter what you decide to test and use going forward, keep in mind that everyone is wired differently, and as a result, different remedies will work for different people. But with a little trial and error, you are bound to find a snoring blocker that suits your individual needs so that you can focus more on dreaming and not on strangling a loved one or significant other.