Snoring can bother your bed partner, and can sometimes be a red flag for health conditions (notably, obstructive sleep apnea). But sometimes you’ve got a snoring habit that is harmless and still drives your partner nuts. Here are some of the ways you can become a quieter sleeper.
Change your sleeping position
For many people, snoring is more likely when lying on your back compared to your side. (Gravity pulls on some of the body’s tissues, narrowing the airway, and this is most noticeable when you’re face-up.)
The traditional fix for this is to sew a pocket on the back of your nightshirt, and put a tennis ball in that pocket so you won’t roll onto your back in the middle of the night. An even simpler method is to go to bed on your side, with a body pillow behind you to prevent rolling. There are also anti-snoring pillows that gently encourage you to keep your head tilted to the side.
Easier said than done, but if you need another reason to quit, consider this one. Smoking irritates and narrows the airway, which can trigger or exacerbate snoring. (If the snorer isn’t you, we have a guide to supporting a loved one who wants to quit.)
Consider your use of alcohol and medication
Some drugs can cause the muscles around the airway to relax, which can lead to more snoring. Alcohol is one of these, so if you drink a lot or if you tend to drink before bed, cutting back may help.
Some medications can have a similar effect. If you’ve been prescribed a sedative, talk to your doctor about alternatives or about whether it would be ok to take your last dose well in advance of bedtime.
Take care of medical conditions
Many medical conditions can cause or worsen snoring. Obstructive sleep apnea is the biggest one. You should definitely ask a doctor about this if your snoring is particularly loud and frequent, and especially if your snoring sounds like gasping or choking.
But other conditions can increase snoring, as well, so mention this if you’re getting checked out for another medical issue. Hypothyroidism, for example, may have snoring as one of the symptoms.
The Sleep Foundation recommends getting checked out if your snoring happens more than three nights a week, if you’re drowsy or have trouble focusing during the day, or if the snoring occurred with recent weight gain, to name a few of the sleep apnea warning signs. Check out the full list here.
Clear up congestion
If your nose is congested, you’ll probably end up breathing through your mouth. In that case, treating the congestion could decrease your snoring.
If you have a cold or respiratory infection, you’ll get better soon enough; decongestants may help a bit in the meantime. If your stuffy nose is caused by another factor, like allergies, consider removing allergens or taking allergy medication. (As a dust-allergic person, I love my allergen-proof pillow covers and I have an air purifier near the bed — I don’t think I snore, but just saying.)
Open your airways
There are devices that can help keep your airways open during the night. The simplest is a stick-on nasal strip, which holds your nostrils a bit more open. There are also nasal dilators that you wear internally.
If things are a bit more serious, you may even want a mouthguard. There are tongue-retaining devices to keep your tongue from slipping back toward your throat, mandibular advancement devices that subtly reposition your jaw, and devices that combine the two. The Sleep Foundation has a rundown of a few different models’ pros and cons.
If your airway tends to get blocked due to anatomical reasons — like if you have a deviated septum, nasal polyps, or unusually large tonsils — there are surgeries that can help. Consider that just one more reason to seek medical help if your snoring is particularly bothersome.
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