Stop snoring!

Dear Alice,

Do you have any hints to stop snoring?

— Help

Dear Help,

Noisy nights can be disruptive to your quality of sleep (and roommates, partners, etc.). It's good to start with some basic facts: Snoring is noisy breathing through the open mouth during sleep produced by air that vibrates the relaxed tissues in the back of your throat. Snoring is usually caused by conditions that interfere with breathing through the nose, such as a common cold, chronic congestion, allergies, or enlarged adenoids. Sleeping position also matters, as it's more common to snore while sleeping on your back, when the lower jaw tends to drop open and gravity narrows the airway.

Other factors that increase the likelihood of snoring include being of a higher weight, your mouth, and throat anatomy, or having a history of snoring in your family. The frequency and volume associated with snoring may vary, even in the same person.

If you or a loved one are snoring, there may be a few different approaches you can take. As long as your health care provider determines that snoring isn't stemming from obstructive sleep apnea (a disorder where the snorer stops breathing for seconds or even minutes at night) or any other serious condition, here are some tips for alleviating your predicament:

  • For at least two to three hours before bedtime, don't drink alcohol or take sleeping pills, antihistamines, or tranquilizers. These substances depress the central nervous system and can make your tongue floppy and loosen your throat muscles, increasing your likelihood of snoring throughout the night.
  • Get a sufficient amount of sleep daily. Sleep deprivation can also relax the throat muscles, exacerbating snoring. 
  • Try adding some humidity to your bedroom. A dry throat tends to vibrate more than one that's moist. You can put a container of water near your radiator or purchase a humidifier. 
  • Use extra pillows to raise your head and align your airway.
  • Try not to eat dairy products before bedtime because some people notice a buildup of mucus that can interfere with breathing.
  • Try taking honey (chew honeycomb or swallow a couple of spoonfuls of liquid) daily for a few weeks.
  • Have someone you sleep with, or your roommate, roll you over onto your side when you start to snore.

As you may know, good quality sleep helps us feel rested, maintains our energy levels throughout the day, reduces stress levels, supports immune health, and helps us focus on our daily tasks. If snoring is or becomes a persistent problem, a visit with a health care provider can help rule out possible causes. Allergies, apnea, and other annoyances may have medical solutions that won't be fixed by snore prevention tips. A little bedroom exploration and experimentation, along with a health care consultation, may help you find a snoring solution. Rest well! 

Last updated Dec 02, 2022
Originally published Feb 10, 1995

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