How to Stop Snoring
Why they work: These adhesive bands stick on the middle of the nose, drawing nasal passages apart to counteract a key cause of snoring: passageway obstruction. (When it’s blocked, air moves faster through the airway in your throat, causing a loud vibration against the tissues.) Most snorers have some obstruction due to nasal congestion, says Michael Breus, Ph.D., a sleep expert in Scottsdale, Arizona. Strips (like Breathe Right, shown above; about $6 for 10, at drugstores) also help when the blockage is caused by a structural issue, such as a deviated septum.
Good to know: Strips work best when placed in just the right spot, says Breus: “Put two fingers on either side of the uppermost part of your nose and slowly slide them down as you breathe in. Wherever your fingers are when you can no longer draw in any breath is the place to put the strip.” Strips come in several sizes for a snug fit on any nose.
Find more tips for dealing with a snoring partner.
Why they work: Fifty-four percent of snorers do so only when on their backs—a position that can cause the tongue and soft palate to collapse back into the throat, blocking the airway and making the tissues vibrate, says Nancy Collop, M.D., the director of the Emory Sleep Center, in Atlanta. These pillows are designed with a groove that cradles your head so you can lie comfortably on your side. Try the Sona pillow (shown here; $50, sonapillow.com).
Good to know: A DIY trick that encourages side sleeping: Drop a tennis ball into a sock and pin it to the back of the snorer’s pajamas.
Why they work: Some experts say that weaker tongue and throat muscles are more likely to go slack, causing snoring, and that a strengthening regimen can help. One exercise: A few times a day, put your tongue tip on the roof of your mouth and make a fast tsk-tsk sound, says Steven Park, M.D., the author of Sleep, Interrupted. Feeling a bit more ambitious? Take up the didgeridoo, an Australian wind instrument. Your cheeks and tongue flex when pushing air through a didgeridoo: Playing one was shown to decrease snoring in a study published in 2005 in the British Medical Journal.
Good to know: Alcohol can relax the tongue and the throat, so avoid it before bed.
Why they work: These plastic-based mouthpieces clip onto your teeth and move the jaw forward to keep the soft tissue in the back of the throat from blocking the airway. Available by prescription from some dentists, the custom-made pieces are less than three millimeters thick and have “an 80 percent success rate and last five to six years,” says Gail Demko, a dentist specializing in dental sleep medicine in Weston, Massachusetts. But they’re also pricey ($1,500 and up).
Good to know: This solution is ideal for snoring caused by mild to moderate sleep apnea, a condition in which your airway becomes completely blocked during sleep, with the result that you not only snore but also stop breathing for up to 10 seconds. Only a sleep specialist can determine if you have sleep apnea, but if you do, medical insurance may cover the cost of the device.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Devices
Why they work: Typically prescribed for those with sleep apnea for whom oral devices don’t work, these deliver a constant stream of air pressure to keep your passageway open. Yes, they look a little like a gas mask and “can be uncomfortable,” says David Volpi, an otolaryngologist in New York City. But experts consider them the gold standard in treating sleep apnea and its accompanying snoring.
Good to know: There are different types of CPAP devices. Some cover the nose and the mouth, while others are inserted into just the nostrils. To find the one that’s most comfortable, your doctor may have you test out a few.
Why it works: If your snoring results from a structural obstruction—nasal polyps, enlarged tonsils, a soft palate (which an ear, nose, and throat doctor can determine)—surgery can correct the problem. But save surgery as a last resort. It may be painful and require a long recovery.
Good to know: Weight loss can help. An overweight person’s throat tissues are bulkier than those of someone slimmer, so they’re more likely to crowd the airway. A loss of 10 percent of body weight may help treat sleep apnea.