As a Sleep Expert I am frequently asked what to do about snoring and whether a certain home remedy will help. I’ve heard quite a few interesting ones over the years and I’m always surprised about what does work. Although, to my knowledge, no study comparing home remedies has been completed, some of the wisdom is logical. Here’s the list I have compiled so far.
- Sleep on your side with your neck straight, this will reduce gravity’s ability to pull the soft tissue areas of the upper airway into the air passage.
- Sew a tennis ball into the back of your PJ’s. This will make it uncomfortable for most people to sleep on their backs, but not all people. One of my clients moved up from a tennis ball to a foam football and still slept on his back!
- Don’t consume dairy products in the last half of the day. The logic here is that dairy can increase mucous output. I’m not too confident about this one because I’ve never heard of snoring being caused by mucous in the first place.
- Humidify the bedroom. I know first hand that this home remedy can help minor snoring, especially in women and in the winter. I believe that this one works because the added moisture keeps the soft tissue in the upper airway more pliable thereby reducing the vibrations and reducing the snoring.
- Some people have told me that a teaspoon of honey before bed can reduce snoring. It might, but I don’t recommend it. Honey is caloric and will cause weight gain and that will only make snoring worse.
- The last home remedy I have come across is to gargle with salt water after brushing your teeth and before going to bed. The salt water is supposed to remove moisture from the soft tissues, causing them to tighten up and shrink providing more airway space. The logic here kind of goes counter to the humidification remedy which says that moisture is beneficial.
When helping a client control their snoring I rely on methods that I know work. First I always recommend having an overnight sleep study performed. This ensures I know what you are dealing with and will rule out obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and other sleep disorders. When I am sure that your challenge is primary snoring (snoring without OSA), it’s time to work your way through the various options. I always start with the easiest first, you can save a lot of money and discomfort this way.
First I recommend that no alcohol be consumed with or after dinner, and that antihistamines, muscle relaxers, sleep and anxiety medications be avoided. Of course the pros and cons of stopping these medications must be considered, because stopping one may cause problems that are worse than snoring.
If these tips don’t acceptably reduce snoring, I then recommend an affordable anti-snoring mouthpiece like SnorBan or a special adhesive facial strip like Chin-Up Strips. Clinical studies have shown that these methods can reduce snoring in as many as 84% of cases. My experience has been even better. I’d say that 95% of people who tried Snorban either stopped snoring or reduced it enough to move back into the bedroom with their spouse. I am sure many relationships have been saved by this approach.
The next step I recommend is to see a dentist who specializes in treating primary snoring. They can custom make a similar anti-snoring mouthpiece that may work even better than Snorban. This two-step approach can save you a lot of money. An anti-snoring mouthpiece like Snorban only costs about $50.00, while a custom made one can cost anywhere from $500.00 to $2,500. This makes Snorban a great way to try out this approach without risking a lot of money.
If the anti-snoring devices are not helpful then a more aggressive approach might be necessary. A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) unit is the next best step. This device blows a steady stream of air into the upper airway to keep the airway open and reduce the snoring. It works similarly to leaving a water tap running a little bit to keep it from freezing in the winter. With CPAP, the snorer must sleep with a nasal mask attached to an air pump by a long hose. CPAP is not used that often for primary snoring because it can be costly, from $1,500.00 to $3,000.00, and it can be difficult to adapt to, but it does work.
Surgical interventions are often my last choice recommendation because they remove parts of the upper airway that may actually serve some as of yet unknown function, they result in a lot of post-surgical pain, and they can be more expensive than the most expensive CPAP. They are also not all that effective. Some of the estimates indicate that surgical techniques are only 20% effective because it is very difficult to locate the problematic area in the upper airway without performing an equally invasive procedure to hone in on the trouble spot.
Another reason I don’t readily recommend surgical techniques is because losing 10% of your body weight alone can stop the snoring and this should be the end goal. However, making the lifestyle changes that are required to lose weight takes a lot of energy and if you snore, your energy levels are likely too low to start exercising and changing your life. So be nice to yourself, try an anti-snoring mouthpiece like Snorban or Chin-Up Strips. If one of the methods reduces your snoring, you will have more energy and it will be easier to lose weight. Once you have dropped off those pounds, you might not even need SnorBan or the Chin-Up Strips.