Practical advice for how to stop snoring

Health correspondent ( 02 September 2016 )

Around 40% of us snore and millions of us are disrupted by our own or our partner's grunts, but there are effective ways to control it



Why do we snore?

While we are awake our muscles keep the breathing passage (the airway) open. But when we sleep these muscles slacken. This can partially block the airway causing the tissues to vibrate and emit the familiar sound we call snoring. Snoring is more common as we get older and the muscles in the throat naturally become looser.

Six ways to stop snoring

What makes it worse?

  • Being overweight
  • Sedatives including sleeping tablets
  • Allergies such as hayfever and rhinitis
  • Lack of exercise
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Sleeping on your back

How can I help myself?

  • Lose weight if you need to. Snoring is closely linked to overweight with a neck circumference of 43cm associated with both snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea
  • Nasal congestion caused by a cold, catarrh, enlarged tonsils or nasal polyps and mouth breathing
  • Cut down on alcohol. Alcohol causes the throat muscles to relax. Try to have your last drink by 6pm or at least four hours before going to bed
  • Quit smoking. Smoke irritates the lining of the airways causing inflammation and swelling. If you smoke aim to have your last puff at least four hours before bedtime
  • Identify allergens. Home tests are available from pharmacies and the British Sleep and Sleep Apnoea Association. Use synthetic pillows and duvets and a miteproof mattress cover. Keep pets out of the bedroom.
  • Treat nasal congestion. Snoring herbal sprays may help or try a steam inhalation. A short course of antihistamines (ask your doctor or pharmacist) may help.
  • Curb mouth breathing. As many as 85% of snorers sleep with their mouth open. Use a snore guard or chin-up strips to keep your mouth closed. Small or collapsing nostrils can encourage mouth breathing. Use nasal dilators or strips to keep your nostrils open. Another alternative is a plastic device that you insert into the nostrils to prevent nasal collapse. Devices are available from pharmacies and the British Sleep and Sleep Apnoea Association.
  • Hold your tongue. Snoring is often a result of the tongue falling to the back of the throat. Using a special gum shield called a mandibular advancement device (MAD), which pulls the lower jaw forward keeping your tongue away from the back of your throat can help. Available from pharmacies and the BSSAA.
  • Change your sleeping position. Sleeping on your back causes the tongue, chin and excess fatty tissue to relax and restrict your airway. Try raising the head of your bed by 4in or sleep on a high, firm pillow. Wedging a pillow against your back will help you to sleep on your side.
  • Ask your doctor for advice on coming off sleeping tablets. Practise sleep hygiene instead to help yourself to a sounder night.

What if none of the above works for me?

If problems persist. See your GP who may prescribe decongestant or nasal sprays for nasal congestion. If this doesn't help they may refer you to an ear, nose and throat specialist to check for problems such as nasal polyps or enlarged tonsils. Thyroid problems may be another underlying cause. If snoring is severe you may have obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).

Dealing with sleep apnoea

Could surgery help?

Options include tonsillectomy, uvulopalatopharyngoplast (trimming and tightening throat tissues) and radio frequency to stiffen a floppy soft palate. However according to the British Sleep and Sleep Apnoea Association surgery is useful in only around 1% of cases.

Sleeping with a snorer?

Try…

  • Nudging them to sleep on their side
  • Protesting loudly – snorers are normally light sleepers
  • Going to bed earlier than your partner
  • Investing in a pair of earplugs.

What to do when insomnia stries

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.