Snoring is a pretty common problem. This makes it easy to accept and ignore. We’re going to explain why you shouldn’t and tell you how to stop snoring.
Often, snoring affects those around you the most. It can put pressure on relationships if a partner is constantly kept awake by snoring, with some couples even forced to sleep in separate rooms because of it.
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 to deal with the situation. 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. We’ve asked our smart network of UK doctors for their top tips on how to have a quieter night’s sleep.
Why do you snore?
This is an important question. Finding out what sort of snorer you are will help you decide which of our stop snoring tips are most likely to help you, while you’ll also learn something about your body!
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. You probably don’t need us to tell you what happens next!
How do you know if you’re a nose-snorer?
- Hold your nostrils shut and try to make a snoring sound.
- Let them go.
- Your nostrils should open by themselves. If they remain collapsed, you’re probably a nose-snorer.
- Now try to make the same noise while holding your nostrils open.
- If the noise was louder the first time, you’re probably a nose-snorer.
This brings us to our first stop snoring tip:
1. Keep 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. There are a number of ways to achieve this.
You can buy nasal dilators that go into your nostrils to prevent them collapsing, or nasal strips that stick to the outside of your nose and hold your nostrils open. It’s also worth seeing 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.
How do you know if you’re a mouth-snorer?
- Open your mouth and make a snoring sound.
- Now close your mouth and try to make the same noise again.
- If the noise was much louder the first time, you’re probably a mouth-snorer.
2. Keep 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 device that will keep it closed, such as a chin strap. Granted, it’s not the most glamorous thing to wear, but if it helps, it’ll 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.
How do you know if you’re a tongue-snorer?
- Put your tongue out as far as it’ll go.
- Try to make a snoring sound.
- If the noise isn’t as loud when your tongue is in this position, you’re probably a tongue-snorer.
3. Move 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), which brings their lower jaw forward to keep their tongue away from their airways.
You can’t just walk into a shop and buy one, so you’ll need to see a doctor about this. If you go down the MAD route, it’s important to find one that’s both effective and comfortable enough to sleep in.
What else can you do to stop snoring?
Not sure what sort of snorer you are? Don’t worry, there are plenty more tricks you can test out to see if they have an effect.
4. Lose weight
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.
You know the drill here. A healthy diet and regular exercise is the best way to maintain a healthy weight.
5. Eat a smaller portion
Not only will eating larger portions all the time make it more likely that you’ll put on weight, a full stomach puts pressure on your chest muscles and makes it difficult for you to breathe normally while you’re asleep.
Remember that it takes your brain around 20 minutes to realise that your stomach is full. Try eating a smaller evening meal, or eat more slowly so that you have a better idea of when you’re actually full.
6. Try the tennis ball trick
Snoring is often 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 nodded off?
One trick is to sew a tennis ball into the pocket of an old t-shirt and wear it back-to-front. The idea is that it’ll be too uncomfortable to be on your back. It may seem a drastic step, but it’s a better option than a dig in the ribs from your partner!
7. Avoid alcohol before bed
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.
It shouldn’t surprise you to hear that the best way to avoid this problem is to avoid drinking alcohol in the hours leading up to bedtime.
8. Don’t smoke
Smoking irritates the lining of your airways and causes a buildup of mucus that means air flows less freely. Of course, this is bad for your breathing generally - not just when you’re asleep!
Luckily, we’ve written a stop smoking guide that’ll help you quit.
9. Treat your allergies
We’ve already mentioned that a blocked nose is the last thing you need before bed, so if you’re regularly left bunged up by hay fever or other allergies, you’re more likely to snore.
You should also be aware of potential triggers in your home, such as pet hair, dust or the material your bedding is made from.
Treating these allergies will give you a better chance of a quieter night, but some antihistamines may come with side effects that disrupt sleep in other ways. It’s best to discuss this with a doctor to choose the best option for you.
10. Be careful with sleeping tablets
Sleeping tablets relax your muscles in a similar way to alcohol, so they can contribute to snoring. They don’t provide a natural, refreshing sleep anyway, so they’re not the best option if you’re looking for ways to help you nod off.
If you’re really having trouble with insomnia, it’s worth seeing a doctor to check if there’s an underlying cause. Treating this will mean you won’t need medication to get to sleep and can remove one possible cause of snoring.
11. Change your pillow
A good pillow should align your head with your spine. When it comes to snoring, this could help stop your airways from narrowing or becoming blocked.
For example, if you can only get to sleep lying on your back, a plump pillow will stop your head from falling backwards. This is especially useful for tongue-snorers, as it will help prevent your tongue from blocking your airways.
12. Try 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’s worth testing out.
13. Don’t eat dairy
While there haven’t been any clear studies as yet, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that suggests dodging dairy in the hours before bedtime can help deal with snoring.
It’s thought that in order to digest dairy, your body produces a thick layer of mucus. While this isn’t a big deal during the day, it’s exactly the sort of thing that could narrow your airways just before you head to bed.
14. Eat a pineapple
Your favourite tropical fruit is one of the best natural sources of bromelain, an enzyme with anti-inflammatory properties.
This could help clear your blocked sinuses, while some studies have also claimed it decreases mucus production, which would stop your sinuses from becoming blocked in the first place.
15. Do some throat exercises
The idea behind this is to get your throat muscles strong enough that they don’t move about so much while you’re asleep.
Just like training in the gym can build up muscles in your arms and legs, a few vocal exercises can help strengthen your throat. A popular trick is to repeat the vowel sounds for a couple of minutes before bed every night.
Even if it doesn’t stop you snoring, it may make the noise quieter or less powerful.
Don’t fancy repeating vowel sounds to yourself? That’s fair enough. Why not get the same results from belting out your favourite tune instead? Whether this is more annoying than snoring is probably up to your partner to decide!
17. Stay hydrated
This doesn’t mean you have to drink lots of water before bed. That has very obvious drawbacks. All you need to do is stay well hydrated throughout the day, which will prevent your airways becoming dried out and sticky.
18. Ask your family
Even if you try everything on this list, snoring can actually be to do with your genetic makeup. If you know that other people in your family snore, ask them what they did to help them stop snoring. You never know, it just might work for you too!
See a doctor to silence your snoring
Whether it’s for the sake of your partner or your health, there are plenty of reasons to deal with your snoring.
While these tips can help, you can also discuss your problems face-to-face with a doctor and get recommendations specifically tailored to your lifestyle, sleep habits and the type of snorer you are.