Snoring. The cause of many a fallout between couples and a constant source of embarrassment if you need to share a hotel room with friends or colleagues.
Snoring is a very common issue and it is thought that around half of all people snore at some point during their lives.
Do you have a noisy pillow neighbour?
You’re not alone – roughly 50% of UK men are snorers and 25% of women, who tend to be affected more after menopause – so plenty of us are battling the dreaded nightly rattle.1
Fortunately, you don't have to resign yourself to a lifetime of earplugs – the fight-back starts here!
In this guide, you’ll find out
Snoring happens when air flows past the relaxed tissues in your throat, causing these to vibrate as you breathe, there are different types of snoring caused by different parts of the mouth:
- The tongue partially blocks the back of the throat
- Narrow or blocked airways in the nose
- An open mouth when sleeping2
This makes a hoarse or harsh sound, like snorting or rattling, and as many partners can testify, it can be very loud.
There are lots of reasons why someone might snore, ranging from lifestyle factors such as being overweight or drinking alcohol to more serious health conditions.
Most cases of snoring, however, are not due to anything serious. But they can be nuisance!
Here are some of the most common causes of snoring and some things you can try to help you stop snoring:
Being overweight can cause you to snore, as fat may be distributed around your neck and midriff, compressing your airways, pushing your diaphragm up and compressing the ribcage, leading to a reduction in lung capacity.3
It is more common for men to gain fat in these places, which could help to explain why men are more likely to snore than women.
If you are overweight and this is causing you to snore, try to lose weight by following a balanced diet, cutting down on unhealthy snacks and taking part in more regular exercise.
Drinking alcohol before bedtime can relax your throat muscles and decrease your defences against obstructions to your airways and so can make you snore.
Try to cut down on your alcohol consumption by limiting your drinks to no more than 14 units each week, spread over three days.
If you would like to cut down on your alcohol intake, you might also like to try to have a few alcohol-free days each week.4
Your sleeping position
Lying flat on your back in bed can cause the muscles and flesh in your throat to relax and block your airway, causing you to snore.5
Sleeping on your side is the best position to sleep in if you want to reduce your snoring as this reduces the compression of your airways.6
It can be difficult to change your sleeping position, if you have been sleeping that way for a long time.
But there are some things you can do to help with this, including buying specially designed pillows and vibrating training devices, which vibrate each time you turn onto your back.
If you have a partner, they may already “help” you with this by giving you a nudge every time you roll onto your back and start snoring!
Smoke can agitate the space behind your throat and nose causing swelling and a build up of mucus.7
This will cause the airways to be too thin and reduce air flow which can result in heavier snoring.
Not getting enough sleep can encourage the muscles and tissues in your throat to relax more than usual and this can partially block your airways.8
This is a bit of a catch 22 as snoring can mean that you are often waking up throughout the night and not getting enough sleep, which in turn makes your snoring worse!
There are lots of things that you can do to help you get more good quality sleep including eating a healthy balanced diet and using products like sleep candles and sleep sprays.
Nasal and sinus problems
Blocked airways or a stuffy nose can make breathing more difficult and create a vacuum in the throat, which can cause snoring.9
You might find that if you are suffering from a cold or hayfever that you tend to snore, even if you do not usually.
Ensure that you take any medication for these conditions before you go to bed, to help keep snoring at bay.
Sometimes snoring can be caused by an underlying health condition.
Snoring is one of the most common symptoms of sleep apnoea.
Sleep apnoea is a serious sleep condition which causes your breath to stop and start during your sleep.
Other sleep apnoea symptoms include making gasping or choking noises during sleep and waking up a lot throughout the night.10
This condition can be serious if not treated and so it is important that you see your GP if you think that you may have sleep apnoea.
There are lots of remedies that can help reduce and even eliminate snoring. Discover 8 of the best below:
Try a tongue workout!
A Brazilian study has found that snorers who exercise their tongue cut the frequency of their snoring by 36% and its total power by 59%.11 Not too shabby!
The researchers helped noisy sleepers to tone up their tongues with several moves:
How to do a tongue workout
Push the tip of their tongue against the roof of their mouth and slide the tongue backward
Suck the tongue upwards against the roof of their mouth and press the entire tongue against the roof of the mouth
Force the back of the tongue against the floor of the mouth while keeping the tip of the tongue in contact with the bottom, front teeth
Three months later, snoring was seriously subdued. Yes!
Limit the pints
Alcohol makes us relax, but excessive muscle relaxation leads to excessive snoring.
Sleep is made up of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep.
You drift in and out of the two in 90-minute cycles through the night, but drinking – even a little – disrupts that pattern, which promotes poorer breathing, and therefore a bed-shakingly noisy snore-fest.12
So you need to cut the booze for a snore-free snooze.
Smokers are twice as likely to snore as non-smokers too, and even second-hand smoke can irritate the membrane that lines your nostrils, so even passive smoking is a no-no.
Clear nasal passages
Nasal congestion can prevent clear breathing, and encourage snoring.
Allergies can trigger nasal congestion, and studies have found that they are linked to sleep disorders, including snoring.13
So if you get hay fever you may also have a problem with dust mites.
Try woollen bedding – dust mites can’t survive in wool, use antihistamine if you have a known allergy, and use a decongestant nasal spray for a few days when allergies flare up.
Homoeopathic nasal sprays are safe for long-term use if they’re helping, so spritz away. Just check the packaging to be certain.
Spoon the night away!
Snorers tend to love lying on their backs, but this position causes your tongue to sag and obstruct your airways during sleep – cue snoring.
We’re not suggesting you sew a golf ball into the back of your partner’s PJs, but if you can find a way to make a different sleeping position comfortable – go for it.
Try lifting their head a bit higher with an extra pillow, or see if they can get comfy on their side by using an orthopaedic pillow.
Try to lose some weight
Extra pounds can narrow your airways, which contributes to snoring.
It’s particularly problematic for people who suffer with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), which is when the walls of your throat relax and narrow, causing you to stop breathing for as much as 90 seconds.
You then give a huge snort to get you back to breathing.
One study found that losing weight is perhaps the single most effective way to solve it.14
People with mild obstructive sleep apnoea who lost more than a stone and kept it off had lower symptoms of OSA.
The greater the weight loss, the fewer the nightly snorts.
Try out throat spray, nose strips or a strap
Throat sprays and nose strips are the most common.
Sprays are used to lubricate the soft tissues at the back of the throat to minimise the vibrations which cause the familiar snoring sound.
Nose strips help to keep the nostrils open while you’re asleep, which helps the air to flow freely in and out of the nasal passage.
Straps can also be used to help keep your mouth closed while you’re asleep.
Strapped around your chin and head, these straps work by keeping your mouth closed to limit the vibrations in your throat.
Invest in an oral device
There are also oral devices that can be used to help.
A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine blows air into your nose and throat via a mask to ensure your airways are kept open.
A mandibular advancement device (MAD), aimed at tongue snorers, are designed to hold the lower and tongue forwards to make more space to breathe, preventing snoring.15
And if all else fails… buy them a digeridoo
Seriously, because a study published in the British Medical Journal found that regular didgeridoo-playing reduced snoring and daytime sleepiness.16
Crucially, partners of the didgeridoo players also reported much less sleep disturbance.
The researchers think that playing the musical instrument trains the upper airways, which helps reduce the symptoms of OSA and snoring.
The only concern? Will their new musical hobby be less annoying than their night-time snoring? You decide.
If you find that you snore a lot and it’s starting to disrupt yours (or your partner’s) sleep, it may be caused by one or more of the causes we’ve already mentioned. So this could be due to:
- Your weight
- Your sleeping position
- Your smoking habits
- Your sleep quality
- Your drinking habits
- Nasal and sinus issues
If you’re fed up with experiencing or listening to snoring all night, you may be disappointed to find out that there isn’t an exact ‘cure’ for it.
However, all is not lost. If you can find out what is causing the snoring in the first place, you may be able to significantly reduce it.
The final say
There are various different causes for snoring – and various different remedies for it too.
So don’t lose hope! With the right lifestyle change or device, you can reduce how often you snore.
Although, if your snoring is causing you to wake up this could be a sign that your breathing is stopping causing obstructive sleep apnoea.
If lifestyle changes and snoring remedies do not help, seek advice from your GP.
Stephanie Romiszewski: Reset your sleep
Listen to our podcast where in this episode, leading sleep psychologist Stephanie Romiszewski shares:
- Sleep advice that could be making it worse.
- Simple changes we can make to our behaviour to help us sleep better.
- Her top tools for improved sleep
Stephanie Romiszewski: Reset your sleep
The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Last updated: 10 June 2022