Just about everyone snores occasionally, and it’s usually not something to worry about. But if you regularly snore at night, it can disrupt the quality of your sleep—leading to daytime fatigue, irritability, and increased health problems. And if your snoring keeps your partner awake, it can create major relationship problems too. Thankfully, sleeping in separate bedrooms isn’t the only remedy for snoring. There are many effective solutions that can help both you and your partner sleep better at night and overcome the relationship problems caused when one person snores.
What causes snoring?
Snoring happens when you can’t move air freely through your nose and throat during sleep. This makes the surrounding tissues vibrate, which produces the familiar snoring sound. 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.
Since people snore for different reasons, it’s important to understand the causes behind your snoring. Once you understand why you snore, you can find the right solutions to a quieter, deeper sleep—for both you and your partner.
Common causes of snoring
Age. As you reach middle age and beyond, your throat becomes narrower, and the muscle tone in your throat decreases. While you can’t do anything about growing older, lifestyle changes, new bedtime routines, and throat exercises can all help to prevent snoring.
Being overweight or out of shape. Fatty tissue and poor muscle tone contribute to snoring. Even if you’re not overweight in general, carrying excess weight just around your neck or throat can cause snoring. Exercising and losing weight can sometimes be all it takes to end your snoring.
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. Again, while you have no control over your build or gender, you can control your snoring with the right lifestyle changes, bedtime routines, and throat exercises.
Nasal and sinus problems. Blocked airways or a stuffy nose make inhalation difficult and create a vacuum in the throat, leading to snoring.
Alcohol, smoking, and medications. Alcohol intake, smoking, and certain medications, such as tranquilizers like lorazepam (Ativan) and diazepam (Valium), 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. Changing your sleep position can help.
Ruling out more serious causes
Snoring could indicate sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder where your breathing is briefly interrupted many times each night. 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, it could be an indication of sleep apnea or another sleep-related breathing problem. 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.
Linking the cause of your snoring to the cure
If your snoring problem is minor, this just might do the trick. The biggest difficulty may become how to keep you on your side. Using a body pillow could be useful in maintaining the position.
Ultimately, this position can prevent the relaxed and untoned muscles in the the throat from blocking the breathing passageways. An old remedy that could be useful is to tape a tennis ball to the back of your pajamas so you don’t roll onto your back. If you have a bed with a recline control, you can set the bed in an angled head-up position, which may open the nasal airway passages.
Peppermint Oil and Goldenseal
If your snoring occurs because of nasal or chest congestion, pure peppermint oil oil can relieve the congestion. It’s been shown to be a great essential oil sore throat relief and congestion in the nasal passageways, which in turn could be how to stop snoring for congestion issues.
Goldenseal is another supplement you can use to help relieve congestion in your chest and nasal passages and is typically found in powder, liquid or capsule form. You can even have a cup of herbal tea that contains peppermint or goldenseal.
Just make sure you don’t have a tea with caffeine, as that can greatly interrupt your sleep.
The sinuses can obstruct the airways, causing the mouth to open and the uvula, the fleshy extension at the back of the soft palate that hangs above the throat, to vibrate and create the annoy of an all-night snore. Vitamin C may help prevent this because we know it helps promote a healthy immune system. That healthy immune system can clear the sinuses.
Papaya, pineapple, which also contains sinus-fighting bromelain, broccoli and red bell pepper, to name a few, are the some of the best vitamin C foods.
Change your sleeping position. Elevating your head four inches may ease breathing and encourage your tongue and jaw to move forward. There are specifically designed pillows available to help prevent snoring by making sure your neck muscles are not crimped.
Sleep on your side instead of your back. Try attaching a tennis ball to the back of a pajama top or T-shirt (you can sew a sock to the back of your top then put a tennis ball inside). If you roll over onto your back, the discomfort of the tennis ball will cause you to turn back onto your side. Alternatively, wedge a pillow stuffed with tennis balls behind your back. After a while, sleeping on your side will become a habit and you can dispense with the tennis balls.
Try an anti-snoring mouth appliance. These devices, which resemble an athlete’s mouth guard, help open your airway by bringing your lower jaw and/or your tongue forward during sleep. While a dentist-made appliance can be expensive, cheaper do-it-yourself kits are also available.
Clear nasal passages. If you have a stuffy nose, rinse sinuses with saline before bed. Using a neti pot, nasal decongestant, or nasal strips can also help you breathe more easily while sleeping. If you have allergies, reduce dust mites and pet dander in your bedroom or use an allergy medication.
Keep bedroom air moist. Dry air can irritate membranes in the nose and throat, so if swollen nasal tissues are the problem, a humidifier may help.
You may want to talk to your dentist about getting a dental appliance that can help change the opening of your airway so your tongue has enough room, avoiding an obstruction when you sleep. The American Dental Association reports that devices worn only during sleep may be an effective treatment option and can help eliminate snoring altogether. An oral appliance fits like a sports mouth guard or an orthodontic retainer. It supports the jaw in a forward position to help maintain an open upper airway
Practice breathing techniques before bed. This can help you relax before bed and also set proper and functional breathing in motion even before you hit the hay. Here are two different exercises to try:
- Deep breathing – Put your hands (palm down) on your stomach, right below the rib cage. Place the fingers of your hands together. Take a long, slow deep breath by expanding your belly. This ensures that you are using your diaphragm to breathe rather than your rib cage. The diaphragm creates suction that pulls more air into your lungs than can be achieved by expanding the rib cage. Your fingers should separate as they lie on your belly. Exhale and then repeat. Do this whenever you are short of breath or as often as you can. At first, you may feel a bit dizzy because you are getting more oxygen than you are used to!
- Humming breath – As you exhale a breath, make a humming sound. This helps strengthen the diaphragm. Do this whenever you are short of breath or as often as you can.