Snoring is a common problem, affecting those around you most of all. Snoring can quickly put pressure on relationships if your partner is constantly kept awake by your snoring. Some couples are even forced to sleep in separate rooms because of snoring.
At its worst, snoring can be a symptom of a condition called obstructive sleep apnoea, where you actually stop breathing while you’re asleep and your body wakes itself up in response. Over time, this can increase your chances of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
You can’t cure snoring. What you can do is manage it. Here are my top tips on how to stop snoring and have a quieter night’s sleep.
Types of snoring
Which type of snorer are you?
Use the screenshot above to get to the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association's (BSSAA) interactive snore tests, "the most used stop snoring self-diagnosis tool on the Internet" – used by 500,000 snorers and counting. If our flow chart above didn't give you a definitive answer, the BSSAA surely should.
If your nostrils don’t stay open properly while you’re asleep, or your allergies mean you regularly have a blocked nose, you’ll have to breathe through your mouth instead.
You’ll be sending air to the back of your throat when you breathe in, which causes the soft tissue in your throat to vibrate, creating the snoring sound.
Solution: Keeping your nostrils clear
If you’re a nose-snorer, logic tells us that you won’t snore as loudly if you can breathe freely through your nose. Nasal dilators can be inserted into the nostrils to prevent them from collapsing, or nasal strips can be stuck to the outside of the nose to hold your nostrils open. Alternatively, you could see a doctor to check whether a medical problem such as nasal polyps is contributing to your narrow nostrils.
We’ve already established that when air hits the back of your throat while you’re asleep, it leads to snoring. Mouth-snorers naturally have their mouth open during sleep, which makes snoring more likely.
Solution: Keeping your mouth closed
Obviously, you can’t control the fact that your mouth opens while you sleep. Not by yourself, anyway. What you can do is buy a chin strap to keep your mouth closed while you sleep. It’s not the most elegant or glamorous of solutions, but if it helps, it’s got to be worth it.
When some people are asleep, the tissue around the base of their tongue vibrates when they breathe.
If the tongue is blocking the back of the throat, it takes more effort to force air through. This can cause very loud snoring and potentially lead to sleep apnoea.
Solution: Moving your jaw forward
Any issue that could be causing sleep apnoea needs to be dealt with straight away. But keeping your jaw still all night is easier said than done. Many tongue-snorers are given a mandibular advancement device (MAD) by their doctors, which brings their lower jaw forward to keep their tongue away from their airways.
Remedies to stop snoring
If you are no clearer what kind of snorer you are after reading this, don’t worry – there are other remedies you can try to see if they improve the volume or frequency of your snoring.
Being overweight or obese makes snoring much more likely. It can result in more fatty tissue around your neck, which closes your airways and makes it harder for air to flow while you sleep. It also increases your risk of developing sleep apnoea.
Avoid sleeping on your back
Snoring is much more likely if you sleep on your back, particularly if you’re a tongue-snorer. Sleeping on your side can help keep your airways open, but how can you make sure you don’t roll onto your back after you’ve fallen asleep?
One clumsy, but effective approach is to sew a tennis ball into the pocket of an old t-shirt and wear it back-to-front. When you try to sleep on your back, you should soon shift to a more comfortable position.
Avoid drinking alcohol before going to sleep
Alcohol causes your muscles to relax. This means you’ll have less control over your tongue and throat muscles, so they’ll probably vibrate more than usual when you breathe in and out. The faster the vibration, the louder you’ll snore.
Smoking irritates the lining of your airways and causes a buildup of mucus that means air flows less freely – which, naturally, has a negative impact on your breathing overall, not just when you’re sleeping. Our stop smoking guide is filled with tips to help you kick the habit once and for all.
Don’t leave allergies untreated
You should also be aware of potential allergens in your home, such as pet hair, dust or the material your bedding is made from. Treating these allergies or removing these allergens altogether will give you a better chance of a quieter night. That said, some allergy treatments may come with side effects that disrupt sleep in other ways – as such, it is best to discuss your options with a doctor, if possible.
Avoid using sleeping tablets
Sleeping tablets relax your muscles in a similar way to alcohol, so they can contribute to snoring. They also tend not to provide a natural, normally refreshing type of sleep either, so sleeping tablets are never the best option on a long term basis.
If you are really struggling with insomnia, it’s worth seeing a doctor to check for an underlying cause. Treating this will mean you won’t need medication to get to sleep and can remove one potential cause of your snoring.
Change your pillow
A good pillow should align your head with your spine. When it comes to snoring, this will help stop your airways from narrowing or becoming blocked.
If you can only get to sleep lying on your back, a plump pillow will stop your head from falling backwards – which is particularly useful for tongue-snorers, as it will prevent your tongue from blocking your airways.
Use an air humidifier
Dry air can irritate your throat and nose, causing swelling that leads to snoring. An air humidifier is far from the cheapest option on this list, but if your snoring is really causing problems, it is worth testing out.
Exercise your throat
The idea here is to strengthen your throat muscles so they don’t move about as much while you’re sleeping. With a few simple vocal exercises, like listing out all five vowels out loud, you can strengthen your throat in no time at all. Singing can be an effective way of strengthening the same muscle group, but naturally, you might be hesitant to sing before you go to sleep.
By this, we don’t mean drinking a lot of water before going to bed – the drawbacks of that are obvious. Instead, we mean staying hydrated throughout the day. In doing so, you prevent your airways becoming dried out and sticky.
See a doctor
Whether it’s for the sake of your partner or your health, there are plenty of reasons to stamp out snoring. While these tips and remedies can help, you can also discuss your problems face-to-face with a doctor and get recommendations for how to stop snoring specifically tailored to your lifestyle, sleep habits and the type of snorer you are.