Snoring is one of the leading causes of tiredness and lack of sleep, and affects 30 million people in the UK. It can be a burden on anyone attempting to get a good night’s sleep—whether it be a restless night for yourself, your partner, family members or roommates.
So what is snoring and why do we do it? Snoring occurs when a person makes a snorting or rattling noise during sleep. It is the sound that comes from the vibration of the soft palate and tissue in the mouth, nose or throat. And is caused by the narrowing of the airway—often the result of poor sleep posture or abnormalities of the soft tissues in the throat which constricts breathing. But not all snoring is the same; everyone snores for different reasons.
Also see: Keeping the passion alive
People who snore often have too much throat and nasal tissue that is more prone to vibrate. The position of your tongue can also get in the way of smooth or relaxed breathing. While snoring cannot be actively stopped at will, nor can it be “cured”, it can however be controlled. Evaluating how and when you snore will help you determine the cause of your snoring and your steps to treating it. If you are a chronic snorer however, it is suggested you see a doctor to make sure you don’t suffer from a condition known as sleep apnoea.
For all you other snorers, fortunately there are a plethora of remedies you can look to for help. Here we uncover what works and what doesn’t with the expert verdict of Marianne Davey MSc, Co-Founder of the British Snoring & Sleep Apnoea Association.
THE OLD WIVES TALES: FACT OR FICTION?
Taking up singing:
According to the University of Exeter, singing tones the flabby muscles in the back of the throat, reducing the irritating nighttime vibrations that cause the noise.
Marianne’s Verdict: There is very little research into this area and what has been done has not had any proven success. Take up singing as a hobby but don’t expect it to stop your snoring.
Nasal strips or dilator:
Used most often by athletes, studies show that nasal strips can provide temporary relief from congestion and may also some people stop snoring. It is said by doctors and snorers alike that nasal strips and nasal dilators hold open the airways to allow a better flow of air and less noise.
Marianne’s Verdict: These are designed to increase nasal airflow and therefore will probably not stop snoring on their own. If nocturnal breathing is compromised, it will encourage mouth breathing and this will most likely cause snoring. It is important to have good nasal airflow at night as most effective treatments for snoring require the mouth to be closed.
Snoring is often caused by nasal congestion. With this, steam vaporizers or running hot water, putting a towel over your head and inhaling steam prove a popular remedy to loosen mucus-causing congestion before bedtime.
Marianne’s Verdict: This is always a good idea if you have problems with nasal breathing. Again, as with nasal dilators/strips, it is unlikely to stop you snoring but will help with nasal airflow if you are using an effective snoring treatment. Good method but needs time to have any effect.
Sleep on your side:
It is believed that sleeping on your back commonly causes your tongue and muscles in your throat to collapse which constricts the airway and causes snoring.
Marianne’s Verdict: Most snorers can snore on their front, back, either side and even sitting in a chair! Good idea but as we naturally move many times during the night, it is impossible to achieve.
Sleeping on anti-snore pillows aims to keep the airways open by supporting the neck so the throat and subsequent breathing is less constricted. They feature an ergonomically designed foam core to position the head in such a way as to minimise snoring.
Marianne’s Verdict: It may help a minority of tongue-base snorers but won’t eliminate snoring. I have not seen any good clinical evidence that a ‘snore pillow’ has any place in stopping snoring. Ditch it. However, I would say that if you are prone to allergies you should be using non-feather or anti-allergy pillows anyway. Don’t spend a fortune, cheap ones are just as good.
The gooey, pungent gel is thought to help open your nasal passages and has some snorers swearing that it’s alleviated their symptoms completely!
Expert Verdict: I can’t see any reason as to why this should stop you snoring. Rubbing something on your chest does not target the airway which is where snoring originates. Don’t waste your money.
Alcohol and anything that causes sedation can cause snoring because they tend to suppress your breathing drive and relax the muscles more than usual during a normal night’s sleep.
Marianne’s Verdict: Alcohol may well send you off to sleep as it is a sedative, but once the effect wears off after a couple of hours, the rebound effect causes fragmented sleep for the rest of the night—hence the hangover. Additionally being a sedative, it will further relax already relaxed muscles and either cause or exacerbate a snoring problem and encourage apnoeas. Sedating medications have the same effect but they can also disrupt your sleep cycle giving un-refreshing sleep and many will cause a hangover effect the next day. If you know that alcohol makes you snore then don’t drink it.
Mouth guards are designed to keep the lower jaw pushed outwards causing the airway to widen. That way the tissues in your throat don’t vibrate as much. Marianne’s Verdict: A mouth guard can be useful for mouth-breathers but of course it will only work if you can keep it in your mouth at night. If you can’t breathe through your nose, your brain will automatically make you breathe through your mouth and therefore you won’t be able to use the guard. Mouth guards are not suitable for tongue-base snoring. Warning: there are mouth guards and there are mouth guards— don’t buy cheap copies of a good device. Anyone can make a bit of plastic look like a mouth guard. Check the manufacturer for clinical evidence—if they can’t or won’t supply the evidence, then don’t buy it.
If you snore mainly from your mouth, you may benefit from using a chin strip. This is a very sticky plaster that encourages you to sleep with your mouth closed so you breathe through the nose.
Marianne’s Verdict: They are very effective but could be broken if you have an emergency and you have to breathe through your mouth. They are an excellent product for mouth-breathers but not for tongue-base snoring. Use with a nasal dilator to good effect.
Some people snore because the air around their soft palate and uvula causes a vibration. The British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association says herbal nasal spray helps to tighten these tissues and reduce flutter, which is the sound we know as snoring.
Marianne’s Verdict: Look at the ingredients. Is there anything in the ingredients that can stop snoring? Lavender oil, lemon grass etc. have no place in snoring, so don’t go there. We have a nose and throat spray that contains the herb, euphrasia that does have clinical evidence of its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-catarrhal, antiseptic and astringent properties that can all help reduce snoring.