Are you tired of feeling tired from poor quality sleep due to snoring? Whether it’s you or your bed partner who snores, there’s a good chance neither of you are getting the quality rest you need to feel energized, refreshed and alert throughout the day.
What is snoring?
“Snoring is a problem with vibratory processes that happen when the muscles at the back of the throat relax,” explains Dr. Green. “Most snoring comes from the back of the throat and the vibratory parts of that tube of muscle; as airflow passes, it becomes turbulent and causes vibrations,” which then produces the auditory sensation of snoring.
Luckily, there are a number of expert-backed tips you can adopt to successfully reduce snoring. These range from trying out new sleeping positions (and avoiding some), making lifestyle adjustments, and using products that help limit snoring.
Keep reading to discover the best anti-snoring tips from double board-certified ENT and sleep medicine doctor Katherine Green, MD, MS, medical director of the Sleep Center at the University of Colorado Hospital.
For more better sleep health content, see our guide to the best mattresses for all sleeping positions.
What are the best sleep positions for snoring?
Dr. Green is careful to note that when it comes to sleeping positions and snoring, what works for some people may not work for others. However she does state that any range of sleeping positions in which you’re not on your back have the potential to help reduce snoring.
“For some people, snoring can be better when you’re on your side, on your stomach, or if your head is elevated while in bed,” she shares. And while she reiterates that it’s impossible to say with full certainty that these sleeping positions will ensure that you’ll snore less, they’re worth trying out if you’re on a mission to reduce snoring and get better shut-eye.
What are the worst sleep positions for snoring?
“There’s no position pattern that’s 100 percent applicable across all patients. Because snoring is an anatomic problem, snoring technically comes from a different place in all people,” explains Dr Green.
However, generally speaking, she shares that sleeping flat on your back tends to be the worst position for people who snore. But why? “It’s a simple gravity problem,” she explains. “The tongue and the soft palate are the biggest muscles of the throat, and they fall back when you’re sleeping flat on your back,” thus leading to an increased likelihood of snoring.
5 anti-snoring tips from a sleep specialist
In addition to testing out new sleeping positions that have the potential to reduce snoring, follow these anti-snoring tips shared by Dr. Green:
1. Avoid alcohol before bed
When it comes to simple lifestyle practices worth adopting, Dr. Green says that limiting alcohol intake close to bedtime is one of the best anti-snoring tips you can follow. “Snoring will always be worse with alcohol,” she states, and advises avoiding it within three hours of bedtime. Doing so “will make a significant difference in snoring and quality of sleep.”
2. Practice sleep hygiene and find ways to manage your stress
Next, good sleep hygiene and stress management also factor into optimizing your bedtime routine to reduce snoring and promote good sleep. “Most people will snore more if they’re overtired, have a sleep debt, and/or are stressed out,” Dr. Green explains.
For that reason, she advises making sure to get at least seven hours of sleep per night, sticking to a regular sleep routine, and practicing healthy stress management techniques to avoid exacerbating snoring and any accompanying sleep issues.
3. Sleep with your mouth closed
While this anti-snoring tip may require dedicated effort for it to become a natural habit, there’s a good chance it can reduce the severity of snoring. “Keeping your mouth closed tends to hold the tongue in a more favorable position,” says Dr. Green.
“That’s why there are over-the-counter snoring solutions that for some people can help to make breathing more comfortable and turbulence more streamlined.”
Conversely, Dr. Green says that mouth breathing will typically make you more prone to snoring, as “sleeping with your mouth open tends to exacerbate that relaxation at the back of the throat.”
However, she notes that “there are lots of people who sleep with their mouths closed yet still may snore like a freight train,” so just be mindful that this tip may not be fully applicable across the board.
4. Try OTC remedies for snoring
When it comes to over the counter solutions for snoring, Dr. Green says that there are several options available. These include the likes of chin straps, mouth tape, nasal strips (such as Breathe Right) to improve airflow, nasal dilators/sinus cones, and the Smart Nora pillow.
“All of these solutions have variable success rates,” she notes, so it may take some trial and error to figure out which OTC snoring solution works best for you. She also mentions that some of these solutions “won’t be effective if you have some degree of sleep apnea,” so it’s important to rule that out (we look at this below).
5. Get a mouthguard for snorkeling
Last but not least, wearing a mouthguard at night may be one of your best bets to reduce snoring. “Mouthguards for snoring pull the jaw forward in a ‘bulldog position’ to also bring the tongue and soft palate forward a bit,” Dr. Green explains. This forward orientation can naturally reduce snoring since it limits the vibrations at the back of the throat that cause snoring in the first place.
While you can purchase mouthguards for snoring OTC and online (she calls out SnoreRx and Zyppah in particular), over the long term, Dr. Green says the most effective ones are those that are custom-made at the dentist. “Adjustable mouthguards can be very beneficial at reducing snoring, and can sometimes be helpful for mild sleep apnea as well,” she shares.
What your bed partner can do to help
Lastly, if you have a bed partner, Dr. Green says you can ask them to help you reduce snoring. She says this will require positional therapy, which you can think of as anti-snoring teamwork. With this method, your partner “pay attention to positional differences in snoring” and notices certain sleeping positions—likely your back—that may contribute to your snoring problem.
From there, you can try to sleep in a different position. If you have trouble doing so on your own, “there are devices to help prevent you from sleeping on your back,” she adds.
At the same time, if your partner has trouble sleeping on account of disturbances from snoring, Dr. Green suggests investing in a white noise machine and/or noise-cancelling earplugs “to mitigate the disruption of environmental sounds.”
When snoring could be a sign of sleep apnea
While making adjustments in your sleeping position and following these anti-snoring tips are a good starting point, you’ll need a different protocol if there’s a greater underlying issue at play. “The real question that I often focus on with patients is starting to tease out whether snoring is just snoring, or if it’s a sign of some degree of obstructive sleep apnea,” Dr. Green shares.
Yet when it comes to sleep apnea, sometimes snoring is the only symptom present—and at other times, there are no discernible symptoms at all. With that said, Dr. Green notes that sleep apnea may be present if you also tend to suffer from “fragmented sleep, feel tired or doze off during the day, or if your bed partner sees or hears pauses or gaps in your sleeping.”
“Many people have undiagnosed sleep apnea,” she continues, estimating that approximately 80 percent of people in the US who have this condition have yet to be diagnosed. “Sleep apnea is under-recognized and under-treated, and there’s likely a big crossover population with poor sleep and snoring.”
In order to diagnose sleep apnea, Dr. Green recommends getting a home sleep testing monitor, which will track your breathing and snoring levels. (You’ll need to ask your primary care physician or a sleep medicine specialist to order it for you, which you’ll then pick up from a lab. Dr. Green also notes that this test is generally covered by insurance.)
If you do discover that you have sleep apnea, when treated effectively—typically via a CPAP machine—Dr. Green says that it “completely eliminates snoring at a 100 percent success rate.” However, if you don’t have sleep apnea and you follow the other interventions shared above, you can anticipate your snoring to be at the very least “reduced in volume, intensity and frequency.”
This article is part of Tom’s Guide’s Sleep Awareness Week 2022 celebration, running until Saturday 19 March. Stay tuned for plenty of sleep tips, advice and expert-rated products to help you sleep better this year.