Snoring Solutions: Devices And Lifestyle Changes That Help

photo of a man in bed snoringDo you or your partner snore, making it difficult for one or even both of you to sleep properly?

Snoring is very common, and can be difficult for a partner to cope with. But it can also affect the snorer’s quality of sleep, and in some cases is a sign of sleep apnea, which would need medical treatment.

Fortunately, there are many ways to tackle snoring, ranging from simple lifestyle changes to specialist snoring devices.

In this article, you’ll find some quick tests to help you work out what’s causing the snoring in your case. And then information about the different treatment options and self-help techniques.

Contents

Part 1: working out what’s causing your snoring

1. Introduction
2. What causes snoring?
3. Snoring or sleep apnea?
4. Simple tests to identify the cause of your snoring

Part 2: treatment

1. Anti-snoring mouth pieces
2. Chin straps for snoring
3. Nasal Devices
4. Lifestyle changes that may help
5. Sleeping positions
6. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines
7. Surgical options

Part 3: A step by step approach to reduce snoring


Part 1: Working out what’s causing your snoring

1. Introduction

A loud snorer can produce a noise level of up to 80 decibels – the equivalent of sleeping next to a dishwasher or a loud alarm clock.

It’s estimated that perhaps 40% of people will snore at some time during their life. And more than 25% of people snore nearly all the time. Men are more prone to snoring than women, and it seems to increase with age, but then starts to decrease around the age of 70.

All the anti-snoring devices and techniques really only control the problem rather than curing it permanently. Having said that, many people do say they work well for them.

How much of a problem is it for you and your partner?

man snoring in bed while his partner covers her earsIf you live alone and it doesn’t disturb your sleep, it might not be a major problem for you. But if it wakes you up, resulting in poor sleep, or disturbs your sleeping partner, then it’s a more obvious problem.

Surveys have shown that the partners of people who snore can suffer ill health due to disturbed sleep. And that they sometimes resort to another common remedy – sleeping in a different bedroom.

There’s also some evidence that snoring may get worse over time if not controlled. Prolonged snoring can cause the blood vessels to your muscles to be damaged, resulting in even less control and making your snoring worse.

So just trying to cope as best as possible with loud snoring might not be the best option for you or your partner in the long run.

2. what causes snoring?

diagram showing the main causes of snoring

The noise from snoring is caused by the vibrations of various areas of soft tissue in your mouth or nose as you breathe in and out.

The rush of air in and out as you breathe can make parts of your nose or mouth vibrate, especially if the normal airways are reduced in size. And in fact, the snoring noise can come from a number of different places:

  • The soft palate – a layer of soft tissue at the top and back part of your mouth
  • Tonsils – small glands at the top of your throat
  • Tongue
  • Uvula – soft tissue that hangs from the roof of your mouth
  • Nose passageways

The problem is that while you sleep the muscles in your neck and mouth can relax, which can then result in the airways becoming restricted in size or even blocked.

This increases the pressure and speed of your breath when inhaling and exhaling, resulting in the loud noise as your body forces you to breath.

Snoring can be even worse at certain times, for example if you have a cold or swollen tonsils, which also reduce the size of your air passageways.

3. Snoring or sleep apnea?

It’s important to note that snoring can be a sign of a sleep disorder called sleep apnea. But it’s difficult to self diagnose whether you’re just a snorer or actually suffering from sleep apnea.

Many people who snore don’t realize they have sleep apnea until they seek medical help. And often it’s their partner who tells them that they occasionally stop breathing for short periods while sleeping.

Sleep apnea can be far more serious and has long-term health implications. So it’s a good idea to mention your snoring to your doctor, especially if it’s particularly loud or frequent. And if you ever wake up gasping for breath or feeling like you can’t breathe, or if you stop breathing at times.

4. Simple tests to identify the cause of your snoring

There are many different approaches to dealing with snoring, so it’s helpful to first work out if the problem is related to your mouth, tongue or nose.

To help you discover where your snoring is coming from, there are three simple home tests that you can try:

A) Open mouth snorer test

Many people breathe naturally through their mouth rather than their nose. But if your mouth drops open whilst asleep, it can lead to snoring. To test this:

  • Open your mouth and try to snore – this might take a bit of effort but give it a go.
  • Now shut your mouth and again try to make a snoring sound.

If you can make a snoring sound when your mouth is open, but find it difficult with your mouth shut, then your snoring may be because your mouth opens wide while you’re sleeping.

B) Tongue test

This test will help indicate if a vibrating tongue is the main culprit:

  • With your mouth open make a snoring sound.
  • Now stick your tongue out and gently grip your tongue with your teeth to keep it out.
  • Try to make a snoring sound.

If it was hard to make a snoring type sound with your tongue out, then your vibrating tongue may be the problem. If it was easy then the problem probably lies elsewhere.

C) Nose test

Try this test standing in front of a mirror:

  • Close your mouth and keep it closed during the test.
  • Using your finger push in one side of your nose and hold it closed.
  • Now try breathing in through your other nostril.
  • Watch to see if your open nostril seems to collapse or pull in a lot when you breathe in.
  • Repeat this with the other nostril.
  • Now try keeping the nostril open by holding it apart and again try breathing in.

In general, if you find your nostrils collapse a bit when you breathe in, and breathing seems to be easier when you pull it open, you may be a nose snorer. It’s probably best not to try this test if you’re suffering from a cold or blocked nose though as that might give you the wrong indications.

These aren’t definitive tests though, and maybe more than one version seems to apply to you. But it should at least give you some clues as to which treatment category to try first.

Part 2: treatment

1. Anti-snoring mouth pieces

image of a woman using an anti-snoring mouth pieceAnti-snoring mouth pieces can work well for people who snore through the mouth or because of their tongue.

There are many different mouth pieces on the market and they work in different ways. They generally fall into three main categories:

  • Vestibular shield – limits the amount of air you can get through your mouth, forcing you to breathe through your nose. This can be useful for those who snore through their mouth.
  • Mandibular advancement device (MAD) – aims to push your jaw and tongue forward to reduce restriction of your throat. This is useful for those who snore due to a vibrating tongue.
  • Tongue retaining mouthpiece – re-positions the tongue to prevent it blocking the airways. Like the MAD, it’s useful for those who snore due to their tongue falling back, blocking the airway and then vibrating.

Overall, the MAD devices have more health authority endorsements than other options and are often the first recommended treatment. They also have some independent research to show that they can be effective.

However, on the downside some people complain that they can be uncomfortable to wear and/or result in soreness and stiffness if worn all night. In one small survey it was found that 30% of people stopped using them after a few tries. But that still means 70% of users continued to use them.

If these are of interest to you my advice would be:

  • Decide what type of device you think you need based on the tests above or your doctor’s advice.
  • Read online reviews carefully before deciding on which one to try.
  • Check if there’s a guaranteed money back trial period.
  • It’s important that it feels reasonably comfortable in your mouth.
  • If over the counter devices don’t work, you could talk to your dentist about making a custom mouth piece. If you have other mouth related problems or a particularly small mouth you may want to discuss your case with your dentist or doctor first. Of course this bespoke route will generally cost more.
  • Despite some claims, there’s no real evidence that custom made options are any better than good over the counter options.

2. Chin straps

image of a man sleeping with an anti-snoring chin strapAnti-snoring chin straps can be a simple and very effective solution for people who snore through their mouths.

If you snore through your nose, or have a congested nose at any point, it’s not going to work though.

Furthermore, it’s important to note that chin straps aren’t advisable to use if you have sleep apnea, unless your doctor recommends one in conjunction with a CPAP machine.

They work by keeping the jaw firmly in place, which also has the effect of reducing the risk of the tongue and throat tissues flopping back and blocking the airways.

They might not look very appealing to wear in bed, but there are many different types you can try out if necessary.

Equally, they’re relatively low cost and perhaps no more uncomfortable than a mouth device, so it’s worth trialing for a while to see if it works for you.

3. Nasal devices

image of a snoring nasal device If you snore through your nose, a nasal device in the form of a strip or dilator could be an effective treatment.

Nasal strips are adhesive tape that you put on the outside of your nose. This pulls your nostrils apart, helping the air flow. A nasal dilator is a device which sits inside your nose and helps keep your nostrils open from the inside.

Again they may look a bit uncomfortable, but people do get used to them fairly quickly. There doesn’t appear to be any independent research on their effectiveness, but they aren’t that expensive so are worth trying.

It’s also good to note that they may also work for some people who feel they snore though the mouth. The reason being that you may breathe and snore through your mouth because your nasal passageways are restricted or blocked.

So it’s possible that these devices, by opening up your nostrils, help stop you breathing through your mouth.

4. Lifestyle changes that can help

There are some health and lifestyle factors which can contribute to snoring, such as:

  • Being overweight: This can result in more soft tissue around your neck and the base of your tongue, perhaps without good muscle tone. That can increase the restriction of your airways and exacerbate your snoring. The medical profession suggests that a neck circumference greater than 17 inches( 43.2 cm) in men and 16 inches (40.6 cm) for women increases your risk of snoring and developing sleep apnea.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol before bed can relax your muscles even more and increase the risk of you snoring. It’s easy to decide if this is a factor by noting if you snore after drinking.
  • Sedatives and antidepressants: These drugs can relax your muscles, leading to snoring or making it worse.
  • Smoking: Smoking can cause inflammation of your throat and/or nose, which again results in a smaller passageway for your breathing.
  • Allergic reaction: If the inside of your nose becomes swollen due to an allergic reaction, for example hay fever, this can force you to breathe through your mouth and increase the risk of snoring.

If you visit your doctor about a snoring problem they are likely to look at the above factors and recommend you take appropriate action.

5. Sleeping positions

Sleeping on your back

Sleeping on your back is more likely to cause you to snore compared to sleeping on your side. This may be because your head is pushed towards your chest, constricting your airways. Your tongue or soft tissues may also fall backwards to block your airways.

Of course, some people feel uncomfortable sleeping on their side, and others will move onto their back whilst asleep anyway. But it can help not to start the night lying on your back.

There are also pillows designed for side sleepers which are very comfortable, and may encourage you to sleep more in that position.

Pillows to raise your head

If you lie fairly flat in bed, the tongue or soft tissue can drop backwards and block your windpipe. So some people use extra pillows or special anti-snoring pillows to raise their heads.

These aren’t the first option recommended by medical professionals, but may be worth a try if you’re still able to sleep in that raised position. And you could just try an extra pillow or two first before investing in a special pillow.

6. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines

CPAP devices are designed for people with sleep apnea and there are numerous options available. Additionally, they’ve also been shown to help some people reduce snoring.

They can be expensive and take some getting used to. So they may be a last resort if used just for snoring, if you’ve tried other options without success. It’s also a good idea to talk with your doctor first before spending the money on one.

7. Surgical options

A number of surgical options to help stop snoring are available. Again though, these are often considered a last resort and will generally only be offered if snoring is having a serious impact on your health or well-being.

The procedures might not be covered by health insurance, and can be expensive through private treatment.

The main surgical options include:

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)

UPPP involves removing excess soft tissue in your mouth, your uvula (tissue that hangs from the roof of your mouth) as well as tonsils if seen as a problem.

The operation is carried out under a general anesthetic and can result in considerable discomfort for some weeks after the operation. It has a reported success rate of curing snoring of about 50%.

Uvulopalatoplasty

This is similar to UPPP above, but uses lasers or high frequency radio waves to remove the soft tissue. It can also result in significant post operation discomfort, and may not be as effective as UPPP.

Soft palate implants

This procedure is only relevant if it’s been established that vibration of the soft tissue at the back of your mouth is the cause of your snoring.

Under a local anesthetic, special materials are injected into the patient’s soft palate to stiffen it and stop it vibrating during breathing.

Radiofrequency ablation

This technique is again aimed at stiffening your soft palate to stop vibration. However, rather than an injection as above, it uses radio waves to shrink and stiffen the palate.

Other options

There are a number of other devices or treatments available, such as mouth and nose sprays or mouth exercises. However, there’s little evidence to support their effectiveness. Most experts don’t recommend these options very highly, but they are inexpensive so may be worth trying if nothing else helps.

Block out the snoring noise

set of earplugs

All of the above solutions are about trying to stop someone snoring. But if this proves to be difficult or impossible, there’s another possible option – try to reduce the impact of the noise on you.

Perhaps the most effective way to do this is to use some good earplugs. These will at least reduce the noise level and with luck may stop it disturbing you altogether.

You could also try using some noise-cancelling headphones along with some relaxing music. They might not block out the very loudest of snorers, but they might help muffle the noise.

Part 3: A step-by-step approach to reduce snoring

The first thing to recognize is that, despite all the hype, there’s no 100% miracle cure. So you might find it’s a case of doing some trial and error.

To help you decide where to start, you can try the following step-by-step approach:

  1. Firstly, if you snore loudly or have other signs of sleep apnea, it’s important to discuss it with your doctor.
  2. Using the tests in this article, try to work out if you snore through your mouth or nose.
  3. Regardless of what type of snorer you are, get your partner to help you find out if you only snore, or snore a lot worse, when lying on your back. If that’s the case, try to sleep on your side. It could be easier and more comfortable than the various anti-snoring devices.
  4. If you think you’re a mouth or vibrating tongue snorer regardless of sleeping position, or can’t sleep on your side, try a mandibular advancement device or tongue retaining mouthpiece.
  5. If a mouth device doesn’t work, try a chin strap or vestibular shield.
  6. If you snore through your nose, or think you snore through your mouth because of a blocked nose, try one of the nasal devices.
  7. You’ll note that I didn’t start with lifestyle changes. That’s because although being overweight, drinking or smoking can affect your snoring, it’s easy to suggest changing these, but often harder to do and/or can take time. If you’re able to address these points though, it could have a positive effect.
  8. If none of the above methods help, your doctor might be able to help you find an appropriate treatment.

Your views

Have you tried any of the options discussed in this article, and did they help at all? Feel free to talk about your experience of snoring in the comments below.

10 CommentsLeave a comment

  • What is your experience or knowledge of chiropractics helping with the underlying causes? That the neck can have various subluxations that can cause restrictions, etc that can be treated through having neck adjustments?

  • I just want to “ditto” what Avid Listener said. I have been struggling with interrupted sleep for months now and am becoming desperate. I wake every 2 hours and rarely reach a dream state. Your article helped me confirm “where” my snoring comes from and helps me narrow the types of solutions. Thank you greatly!

    • Hi Jane
      Thanks for your comment. I’m very pleased to hear that the article was useful for you. Once you’ve narrowed it down like that, it should make finding a solution much easier!
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Ethan,
    THANK YOU for writing what I find to be the most comprehensive and concise guide to behavioral, technological and medical options for those of us wishing to reduce snoring to improve sleep quality. Compared to the many articles I’ve read on other sites spanning the gamut of accuracy and complexity (from forums to PubMed,) your guide is outstanding.

    Having read this guide and also your “Sleep Trackers” page (and not seeing the option to post comments there,) I am wondering if you have come across any tech solutions that monitor for snoring sounds near the sleeper, and if detected, wake him/her with a silent (vibrating) alarm? My FitBit doesn’t yet provide this as an option, and I haven’t seen someone who has hacked it to do this seemingly simple task.

    Again, thank you!

    • Hi there
      Thanks for your comment and kind words! I’m really happy to hear you found the article so useful. Your comment also reminded me that I need to update this article with a couple of devices that do exist that do what you suggest – the Nora and the sleep number 360 smart bed. If you look them up online, you can find more about them on their websites.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Lifestyle changes are the best thing to try, but unfortunately are also the hardest thing to convince people to try. Everyone just wants a magic device or pill.

    • Hi Megan
      Thanks for your comment. I think that’s quite normal in today’s busy world. And to be fair, there are many people who have healthy lifestyles, but still snore. Either way, I think snoring can be very disruptive, so if something helps there’s nothing wrong with it!
      Regards
      Ethan

  • This is a nice post it increases my knowledge about snoring device it teaches me about the bad effect of snoring that how it disturbs the person’s family member who is snoring. So thanks for such a nice post.

    • Hi Puspendu
      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you found the article useful, and I hope you have some success with the techniques if that’s what you were looking for.
      Regards
      Ethan

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    Thanks for your comment! Don't worry if it doesn't appear right away. All comments are held for moderation, and will appear when I have a chance to read them, which can take a few days. But I can promise that I read all comments unless they contain numerous links, in which case I recommend writing again with maximum 1 link. Thanks again. Ethan

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