Snoring is an involuntary action, but there are ways to stop. No one likes sleep disruptions, nor do they like to hear how their snoring kept their partner awake all night.
Apart from being embarrassing and causing sleep deprivation, snoring can cause other health problems. According to a recent study, snoring may make you vulnerable to developing obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a severe condition in which breathing stops and starts intermittently during sleep.
“OSA is a serious problem because it places tremendous stress on your heart,” says behavioral sleep specialist Dr. Jade Wu, Ph.D. “In the sleep clinic, this is always our top priority to treat in patients with sleep problems.”
Recurrent vibrations during snoring can lead to injuries in the upper airway and also prevent healing of the damaged tissues. These vibrations hinder the functioning of a neurotransmitter associated with healing throat muscles. Injured throat muscles tend to relax intermittently, blocking your airway during sleep. Preventing snoring can help you lower the risk of developing OSA.
What Causes Snoring?
Snoring is caused by the soft palates of the throat constricting the airway, causing a vibration sound. A cold or sinus problem, back-sleeping, anatomical deformities like a deviated septum or a large tongue, obesity, or OSA may constrict your airways, making you snore.
How to Stop Snoring?
If you understand the cause of your snoring, you’ll be more likely to treat it successfully. Simple lifestyle changes and following home remedies may help. In some circumstances, you may need professional medical treatment to prevent or stop snoring.
Lifestyle changes like working out, eating a light meal for dinner, losing weight, and avoiding sleeping pills may stop those sleep-disrupting snores.
Exercise and Lose Weight
When you work out, you tone your muscles, including throat muscles. Loose muscles at the back of the throat tend to collapse and block the air passage during breathing. But toned muscles stay in place, reducing the chances of snoring.
When you lose weight, you shed the fatty tissue deposits in your throat which narrow your air passage. Shedding those extra deposits make room for a smooth passage of air, reducing the cause of snoring.
Eat a Light Meal for Dinner
If your stomach is too full, your diaphragm doesn’t have enough space to expand. Lack of space leads to strained breathing, and difficulty breathing during sleep triggers snoring. Eat a light meal for dinner and avoid going to bed right after to help digestion.
When food isn’t digested properly, there’s a risk of acid reflux when you sleep. Acid not only rises back to the esophagus but it may enter the airway, exacerbating snoring. Acid reflux also irritates the lining of the throat, leading to inflammation and congestion.
Anti-Snoring Throat Exercises
According to a 2015 study, oropharyngeal exercises effectively reduce snoring. The oropharynx is the middle section of the throat. It includes the tonsils, pharyngeal walls, soft palate, and tongue base.
Throat exercises tighten the muscles in the oropharyngeal regions, and toned muscles are less prone to collapsing and obstructing the airway. Following these simple exercises may ease snoring:
- Push the tip of the tongue against the roof of the mouth and slide it backward. Repeat the exercise 20 times, 3 times a day.
- Suck the tongue upward pressing it entirely against the roof of the mouth. Repeat the exercise 20 times, 3 times a day.
- Force the back of the tongue against the floor of the mouth and keep the tip of the tongue touching the bottom front teeth. Repeat the exercise 20 times, 3 times a day.
- Say the vowel “A” out aloud—doing so will elevate the back of the roof of the mouth and the uvula (tissue hanging from the rear part of the roof of your mouth). Repeat the exercise 20 times, 3 times a day.
- Put a finger in your mouth on each side and press outward while resisting your thumb and trying to hold your cheek in. Repeat this exercise 10 times, 3 times a day.
- Chew alternately on both sides of the mouth when you eat.
Practicing some simple bedtime remedies at home such as getting an adjustable base for your bed, using nasal strips or drops, sleeping on your side, keeping a humidifier in your room, and taking over-the-counter anti-snoring medication may help.
Use an Adjustable Base
An adjustable base allows you to elevate your head and feet, decreasing the symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome, high blood pressure, and even snoring, because keeping your head slightly elevated from the rest of your body opens up your airways.
Use Nasal Strips or Drops
Nasal strips have spring-like bands that keep your nostrils pulled open, increasing space for air to pass through to the lungs. If you have a stuffy nose, try nasal sprays to clear your airways.
Sleep on Your Side
Turning to your side is the best sleep position for improved breathing. It prevents muscles from collapsing at the back of your throat. Back sleeping may cause your throat muscles to collapse, so if you’re used to sleeping this way, try taping a tennis ball to your back. This will train you to switch to your side.
Use a Humidifier or Purifier
Dry air can irritate your nasal passage; keeping a humidifier in the room ensures the air is moist. Consider using an air purifier as well to eliminate allergens or irritants from the air.
Over-the-Counter Anti-Snoring Appliances
Some devices available over the counter open up your airway. They bring your lower jaw and tongue forward during sleep. These devices look like the mouthguards used by athletes and may be used for a few days to prevent snoring.
Sometimes you may need medical treatment to combat snoring. Doctors may suggest a medical device or a surgical procedure after examining the cause of your snoring.
Devices like a CPAP machine, palatal implants, customized dental devices, and lower jaw positioners may tackle the root cause of your snoring.
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): The most common device used by sleep apnea patients, the CPAP helps to keep your airway open. The machine blows pressurized air into a mask to be worn over your mouth and nose.
- Palatal Implants: The tiny implants in your soft palate prevent it from collapsing and reducing space in the airway. Palatal implants stiffen your soft palate and changes the way air flows around it causing minimal to no vibrations.
- Customized dental devices and lower jaw positioners: These devices open your airway by pushing forward your tongue and lower jaw.
Minor procedures like the Laser-Assisted Uvulopalatoplasty or Somnoplasty may eliminate snoring for good.
Laser-Assisted Uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP)
During LAUP, a laser is used to shorten your uvula and soft tissues. A shortened uvula doesn’t hinder air passage.
During somnoplasty, tissues of the uvula and soft palate are removed. Low levels of radiofrequency heat are used for tissue removal.
Which sleeping position is best for avoiding snoring?
Back sleeping may cause your throat muscles to collapse. We suggest sleeping on your side to keep your airways open.
Do I need to consult a sleep specialist to stop snoring?
We recommend consulting your primary care physician, who can, in turn, direct you to the required specialist.
If you experience loud, persistent, and frequent snoring you are most likely not getting enough sleep, or your sleep is low-quality. Seeking help will ensure a good night’s rest.
This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.