If you’re one of the 45% of adults who snore sometimes, then listen up: Snoring is more than a nuisance to your bed partner. It’s also a threat to your health.
That’s because snoring can decrease both the quantity and quality of your sleep, and sleep deprivation has been linked to depression, memory problems, weight gain, heart disease, diabetes and even an increased risk of death. (If you’re one of the 75% of snorers with obstructive sleep apnea, your risk of heart disease is even higher!) Snoring can also cause tension and resentment between romantic partners, leading to a decrease in emotional and sexual intimacy.
Causes of Snoring
The basic issue at the root of all snoring is an inability to freely move air through the nose and throat, which then vibrates the nearby tissues and causes that classic rattling sound. A broad range of factors can increase the chances that you’ll snore. Among the most common are:
- Allergies, congestion, or other nasal and sinus problems
- Consuming alcohol
- Drugs and medications (especially muscle relaxants)
- Genetic factors
While you’ll need to work with a medical professional to determine the exact cause of your snoring, you won’t have any trouble diagnosing the symptoms. The main sign that you’re a snorer is the loud, rattling sound that we all know and don’t love. Other symptoms include experiencing a dry mouth or sore throat upon waking. If you have sleep apnea, you may even experience:
- Pauses in breathing (or choking) while you sleep
- Daytime fatigue
- Trouble concentrating
How to Stop Snoring: Short-Term Solutions
Want to decrease your chances of snoring tonight (and on a nightly basis)? Then implement some or all of these strategies every night.
1. Use a humidifier
Some folks may be more prone to snoring when the bedroom’s air is dry, because dry air can irritate (or even swell) nose and throat membranes. Using a humidifier will help maintain consistent moisture content in the air, which may relieve snoring brought on by dryness. On a similar note, be sure to stay hydrated.
2. Switch to a new sleep position
As anyone who sleeps beside a snorer can tell you, sleeping on the back can often ramp up snoring. The easy fix? Try training yourself to sleep on your side. If you find that you keep rolling onto your back, consider wedging a body pillow behind you or even attaching a tennis ball to the back of your sleep shirt. Bonus: Sleeping on your left side can bring additional health benefits.
3. Avoid alcohol before bed
This might be tough to implement if you’re a fan of hitting the bars on weekends, but eschewing alcohol for the four or five hours leading up to bedtime can help reduce your chances of snoring. It’s also a good idea to avoid taking muscle relaxants unless absolutely necessary; consult a medical professional if you feel that a given prescription is contributing to your snoring.
4. Try an oral appliance
Oral appliances (aka mouthpieces) are anti-snoring devices that—much like a retainer—are placed over the teeth during sleep. The concept behind the devices is that they’ll keep the user’s airway open, helping to ensure that breath moves freely through the nose and throat.
5. Open up your nasal passages
This can be a particularly effective way to stop snoring if you’re suffering from allergies or congestion. Try taking a hot shower before bed or using a neti pot, nasal strips, or a nasal spray in order to open the nasal passages and make it easier to breathe freely.
How to Stop Snoring: Long-Term Solutions
In addition to the short-term strategies outlined above, there are a number of steps you can take to reduce or eliminate snoring over the long term.
1. Keep your bedroom and bedding clean
Dust mites and other allergens (such as pollen, dust, or pet dander) can hide in unwashed bedding and provoke congestion, thereby increasing the chances that you’ll snore. Make sure to vacuum and dust your living space on a weekly basis, and wash your bedding (including your pillows) on a similar timetable. But go ahead and leave the bed unmade—research suggests that making the bed can actually provide safe harbor for dust mites.
2. Stop smoking
The smoke from cigarettes has been shown to irritate the throat and nasal passages, thereby provoking congestion and inhibiting air flow. Quit smoking, and you’ll breathe more easily through your nose and throat—making it less likely that you’ll snore.
3. Practice throat exercises
There’s some evidence that practicing mouth and throat exercises on a daily basis can strengthen muscles in the respiratory tract (meaning they’ll be less likely to collapse and constrict air flow while you’re sleeping).
If none of these short- or long-term solutions is doing the trick, then it’s time to consult a medical professional. A physician will be able to help you determine the root causes of your snoring, rule out more serious issues like sleep apnea, and identify additional avenues for treatment, such as surgery. Be persistent until you’ve found a solution that truly helps you stop snoring—your health and relationships will be better for it.
Regular exercise tones muscles all over the body—including in the throat. That means that throat muscles are less likely to collapse, making it more likely that you’ll be able to breathe freely in your sleep. Exercise may also help with weight loss, thereby reducing snoring that stems from obesity.