How To Stop Snoring: The Definitive Guide
“How to stop snoring” is a question asked by more than forty thousand people each month on the internet.
With over 45% of adults experiencing snoring at least occasionally, it’s a pretty common problem to have. While both men and women are susceptible to snoring, it is twice as common in men. However, some women begin snoring during pregnancy, and it also becomes more common in women as they age.
So, what exactly is snoring? If you’ve landed on this article, the chances are you’re already well acquainted with the symptoms of snoring, either through first or second-hand experience.
It’s the loud, hoarse sound emitted when we sleep, or in scientific terms, the noise created by the vibration of tissues surrounding the airways when we breathe. As we fall asleep, the muscles in our mouth and throat relax, which can result in a slight blockage of the airway, causing the tissues to vibrate when air passes through.
While, for many, the symptoms of snoring are minor, it could indicate an underlying health condition for others. Sleeping next to someone who regularly snores can also be very distressing, and you may find the issue puts a strain on your relationship. If you’re a habitual snorer, it’s essential that you take steps to treat the problem, not only for health reasons but also for the sake of your relationship.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at the causes of snoring and how to prevent it, as well as explore some of the treatments that can help stop snoring.
If your snoring habit has begun to affect your everyday life, or you’re unsure whether it should be of concern, continue reading to discover our top tips on how to stop snoring.
What Causes Snoring?
There are various causes of snoring – some you may have heard of before and others you may not be aware of. Some causes of snoring can be remedied with lifestyle changes, but other causes are more severe and require medical attention (and, in some cases, surgery).
Let’s explore some of the most common causes of snoring, below:
Sleeping on Your Back
Snoring is common in people who sleep on their back because this position causes the throat tissues and tongue to relax towards the back of the throat, which can partially block the airway.
Drinking Alcohol & Smoking
Alcohol and smoking can both have a relaxing effect on the throat muscles, which, again, can block the airway and cause snoring.
Those who are overweight and those who carry extra weight around their neck are often prone to snoring. This is usually due to excess tissue compressing the upper airway during sleep.
Your Mouth Structure
Some people naturally have a mouth structure that makes them more likely to snore. Men, for example, have a narrower air passage than women, which increases their likelihood of snoring. Other examples include those who have enlarged adenoids, an elongated uvula, or a low, thick, soft palate.
People who suffer from nasal congestion or other nasal issues, like a deviated septum, are also more likely to snore.
Many people find that their snoring habit increases as they get older. According to The National Sleep Foundation’s 2002 Sleep in America Poll, which focused on older adults between the ages of 55-84, 41% of 55-64 year olds reported snoring at least a few nights a week. However, the study also found that the prevalence of snoring began to decrease again with age, with 28% of 65-74 year olds experience snoring and 22% 75-84 year olds.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most serious cause of snoring, affecting more than 22 million Americans. OSA is caused when the upper airway becomes partially or fully blocked when you sleep. It is most common in those who sleep on their back, are overweight, middle-aged, and male.
Some of the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include:
- Very loud snoring*
- Waking up gasping for breath or choking*
- Episodes where breathing stops during sleep*
- Excessive daytime drowsiness*
- Mood changes: irritability, depression, anxiety
- Morning headache
- Waking up with a dry mouth/sore throat
- High blood pressure
The most serious symptoms of OSA are marked with an asterisk above – if you experience any of these, you must seek medical advice. However, if you notice any of the above symptoms – especially if you live alone and have no way of monitoring your sleep – it is advised you speak to your GP, as many people with OSA do not realize their sleep is disrupted.
Depending on the severity of your sleep apnea, there is a range of treatments available. We will cover some of these in more detail later in the article.
Types of Snoring
Did you know that there are different types of snoring? And, the kind you experience can link to different conditions? Monitoring how you snore can help give you a better idea of why you snore and point you in the direction of a remedy. Some are more serious than others, so it’s vital to pay attention to the type of snoring you experience so you can treat it accordingly.
Throat-based snoring is the most severe type of snoring, as it is usually a symptom of sleep apnea. With throat-based snoring, you will typically snore no matter what position you lay in and will likely experience loud snoring, difficulty breathing when sleeping, the frequent need to urinate at night, and you may also wake up with a dry mouth. If this kind of snoring sounds familiar to you, you must seek medical attention.
Nose-based snoring is usually caused by an obstruction in the nasal passage or a deviated septum; however, it can also be linked to allergies and certain medications. Those who experience nasal snoring often also have nasal breathing issues when awake.
Mouth-based snoring occurs when individuals breathe through their mouth rather than their nose when they sleep. This kind of breathing is usually caused by blocked nasal passages, enlarged tonsils, or a weak palatal tissue. Mouthguards and nasal tape can help ease this kind of snoring.
With tongue-based snoring, you usually only snore when lying on your back. It’s caused when the tongue relaxes and blocks the airflow, and is common in people who have a large tongue, as well as those who regularly consume alcohol. This is a less severe type of snoring and can usually be eased through implementing some of the lifestyle changes and aids mentioned in the next section.
How To Prevent Snoring
There are a number of different methods used to prevent snoring. These include lifestyle changes, natural methods, snoring-aid devices, and, in some cases, surgery.
The severity of your snoring, and whether it is caused by sleep apnea will determine what kind of treatment you need. We’re going to explore some of the main treatments below.
Natural Methods to Prevent Snoring
There are a range of lifestyle changes that can help reduce or stop snoring. Let’s take a look at some of them below, backed up with scientific research:
Sleep on Your Side
If you notice that you only snore, or your snoring worsens when lying on your back, sleeping on your side could help decrease the likelihood of snoring. While it can take a while to get into the habit of sleeping on your side if you’ve always been a back sleeper, this simple step could stop your snoring habit altogether.
Elevate Your Head
Elevating your head when you sleep can prevent your tongue from moving to the back of your throat and help keep your airways open. A study that explored the treatment of snoring with positional therapy in patients with obstructive sleep apnea found that snoring severity reduced in both normal-weight and overweight participants when using a head-positioning pillow.
Minimize Alcohol Consumption
As mentioned earlier in the article, alcohol is a muscle relaxant that can cause the muscles in the throat to relax and the upper airway to narrow. Drinking alcohol has been associated with an increase in snoring and sleep apnea.
A study that monitored the effects of alcohol on snoring and sleep apnea in seven patients found that in five patients with sleep apnea, alcohol increased the duration and frequency of occlusive episodes.
The study also found that in two patients with benign chronic snoring, alcohol consumption induced obstructive sleep apnea during the first hour of sleep.
Those who are overweight may experience increased snoring and be more likely to develop sleep apnea. Losing weight can reduce the amount of fatty tissue in the back of the throat and prevent snoring.
A study that explored how weight reduction influenced the prevalence of snoring revealed that the neck circumference of snorers was significantly larger than that of non-snorers.
Research has shown an association between smoking, snoring, and sleep apnea. According to a study focusing on the interaction between smoking and obstructive sleep apnea, the effects of smoking on OSA may include smoking-induced upper airway inflammation and stimulant effects of nicotine on upper airway muscles.
Another study on the influence of active and passive smoking on habitual snoring discovered that both current and ex-smoking are major contributors to habitual snoring, and that the frequency of habitual snoring increases with the amount of tobacco smoked.
The study also found that snoring was more prevalent in never-smokers exposed to passive smoking on a daily basis than in never-smokers without this exposure.
If the lifestyle changes above don’t help, and you require extra assistance to stop snoring, there are various ‘anti-snoring aids‘ that may provide relief. Your doctor should be able to recommend the best aid for your symptoms, but here are some of the most common ones:
Mouthpieces or gumshields, also known as mandibular advancement devices (MADs), help stop snoring by bringing the jaw forward and tightening the tissues that relax when you sleep (causing you to snore). You can either get a custom-made mouthpiece from your dentist or a ‘ready-made’ one (some of these are adjustable).
There are a range of nasal devices that can help reduce the prevalence of snoring related to blocked nasal airways. These include nasal dilators (internal ‘plug’ that increases the volume of air in the airways), nasal strips (external strips that hold your nose open while you sleep), and nasal sprays that reduce swelling inside your nose.
Medical Treatment and Surgery
If none of the above treatments work for you, and snoring continues to affect your everyday life and relationships, medical treatment and surgery may be an option. Depending on the type of snoring you experience, and whether it is linked to a sleep disorder, like sleep apnea, there are several different treatments available.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
CPAP is a method often used to treat snoring that’s caused by obstructive sleep apnea. This treatment involves wearing a mask connected to a machine that pumps pressurized air into your airway while you sleep. CPAP keeps your airway open while you sleep, and therefore prevents snoring.
Research has shown that low-level CPAP (below the range required to treat OSA) can also diminish nocturnal snoring in habitual snorers without OSA. Additionally, the treatment has demonstrated a significant improvement in the ESS (Epworth Sleepiness Scale) score of patients with moderate and severe OSA.
Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty is a surgical procedure that involves the removal and remodeling of tissues in the throat to open the upper airway. The tissues that are removed/remodeled include the uvula, soft palate, tonsils, and adenoids. The procedure is most commonly used to treat obstructive sleep apnea and severe snoring when CPAP and other treatments have provided no relief.
Laser-assisted Uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP)
Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty is a minimally-invasive procedure used to treat snoring and mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. The surgery is similar to UPPP in that it reduces the size of the uvula and removes excess tissue in the throat; however, LAUP uses laser technology for the removal. The precision of the laser treatment causes less tissue damage than UPPP, so it’s thought to be a safer alternative.
Maxillomandibular advancement (MMA)
Maxillomandibular advancement is a surgical procedure used to treat OSA that involves the repositioning of the upper and lower jawbones to open the airway and relieve obstruction. This procedure has been suggested to eliminate obstructive sleep apnea for more than half of patients that undergo surgery. A review of the effectiveness of maxillomandibular advancement surgery in patients with OSA found the surgical success rate to be 100% with respect to AHI and RDI scores.
Pillar Procedure (Palatal Implants)
The pillar procedure is most commonly used to treat habitual snoring and mild to moderate OSA. The procedure involves the placement of polyester rods into the soft palate. The treatment is designed to prevent the tissue in the back of the throat from relaxing and therefore causing snoring/OSA symptoms. When the tissue surrounding the palatal implants heals, the soft palate stiffens, meaning the relaxation and vibration of soft tissue as you breathe is less likely to occur.
Somnoplasty, also referred to as radio-frequency ablation, is a surgery performed under local anesthetic to reduce the symptoms of habitual snoring. The surgery involves the removal of tissues of the soft palate using low levels of radio-frequency heat. During the procedure, controlled lesions are created in the soft tissue and uvula, which results in scarring and the shrinking/stiffening of the tissues. There are, however, concerns surrounding the effectiveness of the procedure, and individuals may have to undergo several treatments to achieve desired results.
We hope this comprehensive ‘how to stop snoring’ guide has provided you with an insight into some of the causes of snoring and given you some tips on how to prevent it.
While most people will experience minor snoring at some point in their life, as we’ve learned throughout this article, there are some types of snoring that shouldn’t be ignored. Not only can snoring cause disrupted sleep for yourself and your partner, it could also be the sign of an undiagnosed sleep disorder.
If you’re ever concerned about your snoring habit, or it begins to affect your daily life, we recommend visiting your doctor.