Not all snoring is the same. In fact, everyone snores for different reasons. When you get to the bottom of why you snore, then you can find the right solutions to a quieter, deeper sleep.
People who snore often have too much throat and nasal tissue, or “floppy” tissue that is more prone to vibrate. The position of your tongue can also get in the way of smooth breathing. Evaluating how and when you snore will help you pinpoint whether the cause of your snoring is within your control or not. The good news is that no matter how and when you snore, there are solutions to making your snoring better.
Where does the snoring sound come from?
Snoring happens when you can't move air freely through your nose and mouth during sleep. Often caused by the narrowing of your airway, either from poor sleep posture or abnormalities of the soft tissues in your throat. A narrow airway gets in the way of smooth breathing and creates the sound of snoring.
Common causes of snoring
- Age. As you reach middle age and beyond, your throat becomes narrower, and the muscle tone in your throat decreases.
- The way you’re built. Men have narrower air passages than women and are more likely to snore. A narrow throat, a cleft palate, enlarged adenoids, and other physical attributes that contribute to snoring are often hereditary.
- Nasal and sinus problems. Blocked airways make inhalation difficult and create a vacuum in the throat, leading to snoring.
- Being overweight or out of shape. Fatty tissue and poor muscle tone contribute to snoring.
- Alcohol, smoking, and medications. Alcohol intake, smoking, and certain medications can increase muscle relaxation leading to more snoring.
- Sleep posture. Sleeping flat on your back causes the flesh of your throat to relax and block the airway.
Is it just snoring or sleep apnea?
Snoring could indicate sleep apnea, a potentially life-threatening condition that requires medical attention. Sleep apnea is a breathing obstruction, causing the sleeper to keep waking up to begin breathing again. Normal snoring doesn’t interfere with the quality of your sleep as much as sleep apnea, so if you’re suffering from extreme fatigue and sleepiness during the day, your problem may be more than just snoring.
Is snoring causing a rift in your relationship? No matter how much you love each other, the loss of sleep from frequent snoring can strain a relationship as well as put your partner’s health at risk.
When snoring is a problem, relationship tension can grow in the following ways:
- Sleeping alone. If you or your partner snores, one of the easiest solutions is for you to sleep apart in different rooms. This often results in a lack of needed physical intimacy, straining the relationship. And if you’re the one snoring, you might feel lonely, isolated, and frustrated about something you feel you have no control over.
- Snoring spats. It’s common to be irritable when sleep loss is an issue, but try reining in your frustration. Remember, you want to attack the snoring problem—not your sleep partner.
- Partner resentment. When a non-snorer feels he or she has done everything possible to sleep through the night (ear-plugs, noise-machines, etc.) but his or her partner does nothing to combat his or her own snoring, it can lead to resentment. Working as a team to find a snoring cure can prevent future fights.
If you value your relationship, make it your priority to find a snoring cure so you can both sleep soundly. Working together to stop snoring can even be an opportunity to improve the quality of your bond and become more deeply connected.
So you love everything about your partner…except his or her snoring. It’s normal. Even the most patient amongst us will draw the line at sleep deprivation. But no matter how much sleep you lose due to someone snoring, it’s important to handle the problem sensitively. Remember that your partner likely feels vulnerable and even a little embarrassed about his or her snoring.
- Time your talk carefully. Avoid middle of the night or early morning discussions when you’re feeling exhausted.
- Keep in mind it’s not intentional. Although it’s easy to feel like a victim when you lose sleep, remember that your partner isn’t keeping you awake on purpose.
- Avoid lashing out. Sure, sleep deprivation is aggravating and can be damaging to your health, but try your best to approach the problem in a non-confrontational way.
- Beware of bitterness. Make sure that latching onto snoring is not an outlet for other hidden resentments you’re harboring.
- Use humor and playfulness to bring up the subject of snoring without hurting your partner’s feelings. Laughing about it can ease tension. Just make sure it doesn’t turn into too much teasing.
It’s common to be caught off guard—not to mention to feel a little hurt—when a partner complains about your snoring. After all, you probably didn’t even realize it was happening. And although it might seem silly that snoring can cause such relationship turmoil, it’s a common and a very real problem.
If you dismiss your partner’s concerns and refuse to try to solve your snoring problem, you’re sending a clear message to your partner that you don’t care about his or her needs.
Keep the following in mind as you and your partner work together to find a solution to your snoring:
- Snoring is a physical issue. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Like a pulled muscle or a common cold, improving the condition is in your hands.
- Avoid taking it personally. Try not to take your partner’s frustration as a personal critique or attack. Your partner loves you, just not the snoring.
- Take your partner seriously. Avoid minimizing complaints. Lack of sleep is a health hazard and can make your partner feel miserable all day.
- Make it clear that you prioritize the relationship. If you and your partner have this understanding, you’ll both do what it takes to find a cure for the snoring.
- Address inappropriate behavior. Although sleep deprivation can lead to moodiness and irritability, let your partner know that it’s not okay for them to throw an elbow jab or snap at you when you’re snoring.
There are so many bizarre anti-snoring devices available on the market today, with more being added all the time, that finding the right solution for your snoring can seem like a daunting task. Unfortunately, many of these unusual devices are unproven or work by simply keeping you awake at night. There are, however, plenty of proven techniques that can help you eliminate snoring. Not every remedy is right for every person, though, so it may require some patience, some lifestyle changes, and a willingness to experiment with different solutions.
The first step to solving a snoring problem is to find the cause of your snoring. Enlist your non-snoring sleep partner to help you keep a sleep diary to monitor your snoring. Observing patterns in your snoring can often help pinpoint the reasons why you snore, what makes it worse, and how to go about stopping your snoring.
How you snore reveals why you snore
It’s crucial to note the different ways you sleep and snore. Sleep positions reveal a lot, and figuring out how you snore can reveal why you snore. When you know why you snore, you can get closer to a cure.
- Closed-mouth snoring may indicate a problem with your tongue.
- Open-mouth snoring may be related to the tissues in your throat.
- Snoring when sleeping on your back is probably mild snoring – improved sleep habits and lifestyle changes may be effective cures.
- Snoring in all sleep positions can mean your snoring is more severe and may require a more comprehensive treatment.
There are many things you can do on your own to help stop snoring. Home remedies and lifestyle changes can go a long way in resolving the problem.
Lifestyle changes to stop snoring
- Lose weight. Losing even a little bit of weight can reduce fatty tissue in the back of the throat and decrease or even stop snoring.
- Exercise can also help to stop snoring. Working out to tone your arms, legs, and abs, for example, also leads to toning the muscles in your throat, which in turn can lead to less snoring.
- Quit smoking. If you smoke, your chances of snoring are high. Smoking causes airways to be blocked by irritating the membranes in the nose and throat.
- Avoid alcohol, sleeping pills, and sedatives, especially before bedtime, because they relax the muscles in the throat and interfere with breathing. Talk to your doctor about any prescription medications you’re taking, as some encourage a deeper level of sleep which can make snoring worse.
- Establish regular sleep patterns. Create a bedtime ritual with your partner and stick to it. Hitting the sack in a routine way together can help you sleep better and often minimize snoring.
Bedtime remedies to help you stop snoring
- Clear nasal passages. Having a stuffy nose makes inhalation difficult and creates a vacuum in your throat, which in turn leads to snoring. You can do it naturally with a Neti pot or try nasal decongestants or nasal strips to help you breathe more easily while sleeping.
- Keep bedroom air moist with a humidifier. Dry air can irritate membranes in the nose and throat.
- Reposition. Elevating your head four inches may ease breathing and encourage your tongue and jaw to move forward. There are specially designed pillows available to help prevent snoring by making sure your neck muscles are not crimped.
- Avoid caffeine and heavy meals within two hours of going to bed, especially dairy products and soymilk.
- Sleep on your side. Avoid sleeping on your back, as gravity makes it more likely for your tongue and soft tissues to drop and obstruct your airway.
Stop Snoring Solution: The tennis ball trick
Is sleeping on your back causing you to snore? If so, try the tennis ball trick. Sleep with a tennis ball (or similar sized ball) attached to the back of a pajama top or t-shirt. (You can sew or safety pin a sock to the back of the pajama top, then put a tennis ball in it.) The tennis ball is uncomfortable if you lie on your back, and you will respond by turning on your side. Or wedge a pillow stuffed with tennis balls behind your back. Soon you will develop side-sleeping as a habit and not need the tennis balls.
Throat exercises to stop snoring
Practiced for 30 minutes a day, throat exercises can be an effective way to reduce or stop snoring. Repeatedly pronouncing certain vowel sounds and curling the tongue in specific ways can strengthen muscles in the upper respiratory tract and thereby reduce snoring.
Try the following exercises to stop snoring. Start slow and gradually increase the number of sets you do. In some cases, you may be able to combine the exercises with other activities, such as commuting to work, walking your dog, working out, or taking a shower.
- Repeat each vowel (a-e-i-o-u) out loud for three minutes a few times a day.
- Place the tip of your tongue behind your top front teeth. Slide your tongue backwards for 3 minutes a day.
- Close your mouth and purse your lips. Hold for 30 seconds.
- With mouth open, move jaw to the right and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on left side.
- With mouth open, contract the muscle at the back of your throat repeatedly for 30 seconds. Tip: Look in the mirror to see the uvula (“the hanging ball”) move up and down.
Alternative remedies for snoring
- Singing can increase muscle control in the throat and soft palate, reducing snoring caused by lax muscles.
- Playing the didgeridoo may sound strange, but studies show that learning to play a didgeridoo (native Australian wind instrument) can strengthen the soft palate and throat, reducing snoring.
If you’ve tried the self-help solutions to stop snoring without success, don’t give up hope. Medical cures and treatments could make all the difference. New advances in the treatment of snoring are being made all the time and the various devices available to stop snoring are becoming more and more effective and comfortable. So even if your doctor recommends something that in the past you found to be uncomfortable or ineffective, that doesn’t mean the same will be true now.
Medical cures for snoring
If your own efforts to stop snoring do not help, consult your physician or an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat doctor, otherwise known as an ENT). If you choose to try a dental appliance for your snoring, you will need to see a dentist specializing in these devices.
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). To keep your airway open during sleep, a machine at your bedside blows pressurized air into a mask that you wear over your nose or face.
- Dental appliances, oral devices, and lower jaw-positioners often resemble an athlete’s mouth guard. They help open your airway by bringing your lower jaw or your tongue forward during sleep.
- Traditional surgery such as Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), Thermal Ablation Palatoplasty (TAP), tonsillectomy, and adenoidectomy, increase the size of your airway by surgically removing tissues or correcting abnormalities. The Pillar procedure is also an effective surgery in which small plastic implants are inserted into the soft palate. Scar tissue grows around the implants, stiffening the soft palate, which stops vibrations that cause snoring.
- New developments. Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) and somnoplasty remove parts of the soft palate to reduce snoring using lasers or radiofrequency signals. These newer remedies may require further study.
When to see a doctor about snoring
Snoring can sometimes be a warning sign of a more serious problem. A doctor should evaluate a snorer for any underlying medical conditions, other sleeping disorders such as sleep apnea, or any sleep-related breathing problems. Call your doctor if you or your sleep partner have noticed any of the following red flags:
- You snore loudly and heavily and are tired during the day.
- You stop breathing, gasp, or choke during sleep.
- You fall asleep at inappropriate times, such as during a conversation or a meal.
To rule out a more serious problem, a physician may refer you to a sleep specialist for a home-based sleep test using a portable monitor or request you stay overnight at a sleep clinic. If these sleep studies conclude that the snoring is not related to any sleeping or breathing disorders, you can discuss different treatment options to stop the snoring.
Resources & References
General information about snoring
Mayo Clinic - Snoring – Multi-section article, from causes to self-care and cures. (Mayo Clinic)
The Physiology and Anatomy of Snoring – Covers the physical causes of snoring, and surgical and non-surgical cures and treatments. (Centre for Snoring and Sleep Disorders, Sydney, Australia)
Snoozing or Snoring – Written for kids, and provides a good overview of snoring, typical causes, and possible treatments. (KidsHealth, Nemours Foundation)
Snoring Questionnaire – Helps determine causes of snoring. (Put An End to Snoring – commercial site)
Treatments for snoring
Surgery for Snoring – Brief descriptions of the types of surgery for snoring. (British Snoring & Sleep Apnea Association)
Palatal Implants Provide Effective Snoring Relief – Covers the methodology and results for this snoring cure. (Medical News Today)
Stop snoring with dental appliances – Explains the various types of mouthpiece devices that can cure snoring. (Snoring shop – commercial site)
Singing Your Way to a Snore Free Night – NPR story describes “Singing for Snorers,” a program that teaches singing exercises to help reduce snoring. (National Public Radio)
Didgeridoo helps stop snoring – A study done at the University of Zurich in Switzerland has shown that participants who played daily slept better and complained less about daytime sleepiness. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
Finding sleep clinics, dentists, and otolaryngologists for snoring
Locate a Sleep Center in the U.S. by Zip Code / Locate a Sleep Center by State – Helps you to find an accredited sleep center near you. (American Academy of Sleep Medicine)
Find a Dentist – Search for a local dentist in the U.S. who specializes in dental devices for curing snoring. (Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine)
Find an Otolaryngologist – An international directory of head and neck surgeons, who may be able to help cure snoring. (American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery)