Snoring can cause big problems in your relationships, not to mention in your health. The National Sleep Foundation estimates that around 40 million Americans snore routinely with 1 in 3 Americans snoring occasionally. That’s huge! The kicker is that these rates seem to be increasing year after year and are beginning to include younger adults and even some children.
Snoring can not only disrupt your sleep and keep you from getting enough rest, it can lead to more serious health problems including sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and heart problems. So if you snore, how do you reduce its frequency or stop it altogether? Here’s what’s worked for me.
First of all, a warning. Snoring can be an indicator of a serious medical condition so if your snoring problem is severe (waking you, or your partner, more than twice a night or so), you should check with your doctor. The Mayo Clinic website has some good information on what to expect when you see your doctor as well as the various treatments available.
What Causes Snoring.
What causes snoring in the majority of cases is that the soft tissue of the upper palette (at the back of the mouth) relax during sleep and sag to the point that they begin to vibrate loudly as you breathe. Like the guy in the picture above, most people who snore tend to sleep on their back for most of the night. Many also tend to use a soft pillow that allows their head to tilt slightly back. This allows the mouth to naturally open during sleep. As a result, they then begin to breathe through their mouth resulting in snoring. Although I didn’t pick this picture specifically for this reason, it does a really good job of showing you what the main problem is.
(Please note that I purposely excluded snoring caused by any type of obstruction or sinus condition. These are more serious conditions and require professional treatment. The suggestions that follow will not be effective for these types of conditions.)
The Fastest Way to Stop Snoring.
OK, so far you know that what causes snoring is the soft tissue at the back of the mouth and throat that tends to sag when we sleep. Sleeping on our back tends to promote mouth breathing which causes the soft tissue to vibrate loudly resulting in snoring. So what’s the fastest way to stop snoring? Easy. Don’t sleep on your back!
Once I got comfortable spending most of the night sleeping on my side, my snoring essentially stopped completely. Why? For two reasons. First, the soft tissue at the back of my mouth doesn’t block my airway since I’m not laying on my back, and second, my mouth doesn’t fall open so I don’t breathe through my mouth most of the night.
So how do you learn to get comfortable sleeping on your side? Here are a few tips:
1. Check your mattress. Make sure your mattress is pliable enough to make sleeping on your side comfortable. I know a lot of people prefer a firm mattress because a soft one makes their back hurt. However, their back usually hurts because, you guessed it, they mostly sleep on their back. I didn’t say you needed a soft mattress, just one that’s pliable or soft enough so that you can sleep on your side without feeling sore or stiff in the morning. The “memory foam” mattresses are good as are the “sleep number” beds, which is what I use.
2. Get the right sized pillow. Many people are sleeping on a pillow that’s too high for them. Why? Again, because they usually sleep on their back and they want to have their heads tilted slightly forward so that they don’t wake up with a sore neck. If you try to sleep on your side using a pillow that’s too high, you’ll definitely be uncomfortable and will naturally want to roll back onto your back during the night. I use one of those contoured “memory foam” pillows that are designed to support your neck as well as keep your head level when you’re laying on your side.
3. Use “props.” Push pillows or a rolled up quilt or blanket up against your back in order to “prop” yourself on your side. This will make it more difficult for you to roll over on to your back during the night. You can also find “knee pillows” or “body pillows” that might help you be more comfortable sleeping on your side.
4. Use a tennis ball. I don’t remember where I read about this but it works great. Take a tennis ball and put it into a sock. Then pin the sock to the back of your pajama top (or tee shirt) so that the ball is positioned around the small of your back. Then go to sleep lying on your side. Believe me, if you try to roll over on to your back during the night, the tennis ball will make it so uncomfortable that you’ll immediately switch back to your side. This is more of a “last resort” technique but it works great!
What Worked for Me.
I accidentally “trained” myself to sleep on my side while I was using the PureSleep anti-snore device (see the Reviews section or use the Search box). Using the device kept my mouth partially open and made me drool all night long (see “The Pros and Cons of PureSleep”). I wasn’t snoring anymore but I was still waking up several times during the night with drool running down my cheek. The only way I could keep my mouth clear was to sleep on my side which allowed the drool to flow freely. Now all I had to worry about was waking up on a wet pillow!
I know it sounds gross (and it was) but the point is that I eventually trained my body to sleep on it’s side. After a while, I found I didn’t need the PureSleep device at all anymore. Now I have the best of both worlds – I don’t snore anymore because I sleep on my side, and since I don’t need the PureSleep device anymore, I don’t have the drooling problem either.
Other Helpful Techniques.
Here are a couple of other things that will help support your anti-snoring efforts:
1. Lose some weight. It’s a fact that the more overweight we are, the more likely we are to sleep on our backs. The more weight you’re carrying around, the harder it’s going to be to learn to sleep on your side. Being overweight is related to so many health issues, including snoring, that losing a few pounds should be a priority anyway.
2. Don’t drink alcohol close to bedtime. Drinking alcohol makes your muscles relax even more than they would normally. This makes your snoring problem even worse — which might drive your partner to drink!
3. Try nasal strips. I didn’t have good luck with these but they may work for you. They do in fact work. The nasal strip gently pulls up on the sides of your nose and opens the nasal passages a little wider allowing more air in. My problem was that my skin became irritated by the adhesive on the strips. It got to where pulling off the nasal strip in the morning also meant pulling off a good portion of skin so I quit using them. However, they’re relatively inexpensive and definitely worth a try.
4. Try an “anti-snore” pillow. Whether your pillow is advertised as ”anti-snore” or not, get a good pillow that keeps your head positioned correctly when you’re on your side. If your head and neck isn’t positioned correctly, you’ll never sleep comfortably on your side. You can find a wide variety of pillows including those that are contoured, which is what I use. I don’t recommend one over another, just that you find one that keeps your neck and head aligned properly and that’s comfortable for you.
5. Exercise regularly. Regular exercise will help keep your air passages clear, tone your muscles, and help you shed a couple of extra pounds. You’ll also tend to sleep deeper and better.
Snoring is not something that you, or your partner, have to put up with. There are things that you can try that can make a big difference. The thing I found that made the biggest difference for me was learning how to spend the majority of the night sleeping on my side. Give it try and see if it works for you too.
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