How to Put Snoring to Rest

Expert tips for a better night’s sleep

Man snoring with woman awake

If you can’t get through the night without a symphony of snorts and saws, you’re not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 90 million American adults snore. 

Snoring is common in both men and women but is more frequent in men, says Harneet Walia, MD, of Cleveland Clinic’s Sleep Disorders Center. It can disrupt your or your bed partner’s sleep. It can also be a symptom of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which may be linked to cardiovascular disease in the long run.

Lifestyle changes for snoring

People who suspect OSA should seek treatment as soon as possible.  However,“in the absence of OSA, lifestyle changes should always be the first line of treatment,” Dr. Walia says. These include:

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  • Dropping extra pounds. For overweight or obese people, snoring may be caused by extra weight around the throat, which leads to the collapse of the upper airway. Because of this, weight loss may decrease the frequency of snoring.
  • Banishing the brew before bed. Alcohol may cause relaxation of the airway muscles while you sleep, so avoid it for several hours before bedtime.
  • Changing your sleep position. Sleeping on your back can cause your airway to close. If you snore, try sleeping on your side to open your airway.
  • Quitting smoking. Doing so may improve nasal congestion and thereby reduce snoring.

Over-the-counter remedies

A trip to the drugstore will show no shortage of over-the-counter solutions for snoring, but they are not always backed by research, cautions Dr. Walia. However, some treatments may help under a doctor’s guidance:

  • Intranasal decongestants. These may be useful if your snoring is caused by nasal congestion — especially the common cold. For chronic nasal congestion, intranasal steroid sprays may be used.
  • Nasal strips. These strips, designed to open the airway, can ease snoring in some patients, says Dr. Walia.

Treatments for serious snorers

About half of those with loud snoring have obstructive sleep apnea, which also can include symptoms such as daytime sleepiness or tiredness, gasping for air or choking episodes at night and witnessed pauses in breathing while sleeping. For obstructive sleep apnea, your doctor might order a sleep study in the lab, called a polysomnogram, or a home sleep test.

After diagnosis, these treatments along with lifestyle changes can help reduce snoring and improve your sleep, says Dr. Walia:

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  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This is the most commonly used therapeutic treatment for sleep apnea. You’ll wear a face or nasal mask overnight, which forces air through your airway to keep it open.
  • Oral appliances. These mouthpieces increase the size of the upper airway during sleep, advance the jaw and the tongue forward, and can help reduce snoring. They are safer than surgery and effective in certain patients if used correctly. They can be used in isolated snoring as well, Dr. Walia says.
  • Surgery. As a last resort, removing the excessive soft tissue from the throat to widen the upper airway can reduce snoring in some cases. You and your doctor should weigh the risks and benefits before surgery — and try other treatments first.

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  • d kitay

    perhaps learnimg to relax the lower jaw and toungue could help. i will try. thx for info

  • LVBruin

    I had my uvula removed as well as the soft tissue. I don’t snore any more. I had to learn to slow down my eating and drinking which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it can cause some discomfort. The recovery from surgery is painful and a bit lengthy. It is truly a last resort. I had mild apnea but heavy loud snoring. I tried the CPAP and oral appliance. Part of me regrets having the surgery. I would think longer and harder before having it if there were a next time.

    • Solgirl

      That’s why I mentioned the radiofrequency ablation. It basically does what you had done (minus removing the uvula) by shrinking the flesh in the area, so you get a similar effect without the cutting. It may, however, need another treatment later, which your surgery wouldn’t warrant.

  • Solgirl

    Really think that radiofrequency ablation should get more attention as a relatively uninvasive way to reduce the extra soft tissue in the upper airway. It may take more than one application but it’s an outpatient thing. Anything on this Brain & Spine team?

    • steel29

      I love that idea…i work in Sleep Medicine myself…I’ve read up on it…only thing is most insurance companies won’t cover it.

      • Solgirl

        If a person can blow money on acrylic nails, 2 hour hair toning in salons or day spas, I don’t think paying for the radiofrequency ablation is a stretch, especially considering the increased rest and better health long term it provides. That’s even if a second treatment needs to be done much later. But it’s not readily available yet.

        • steel29

          True….but the hard part is getting people on board with it…proof, results…heck, as long as CPAP’s been around it’s still like pulling teeth to convince people that it works.

        • Doreen Clark

          why bring that into this

  • Rick, RN

    What ever happened to the soft palate implants that stiffen the palate? They were tubular plastic with a flexable solid core.

    • steel29

      The Palate procedure

  • Dmitriy Golovyan

    And for those who can’t tolerate cpap, there’s hope in a new implanted hypoglossal simulator, essentially a pacemaker for sleep apnea. It hasn’t received FDA approval yet, but the studies are impressive and the FDA is reviewing.

    • Solgirl

      Thanks for passing that along.

  • Regina Thompson Reighard

    Would you do a piece on Night Terrors?

  • jjbbone

    What about children who snore, snort, gasp all night?

  • David Bergeron

    I have PTSD, I tried CPAP with the VA. I had anxiety and clostraphobic symptoms. If anything I felt like I was choking.