Adhesive external nasal strips that lift nostrils up and out, such as those made by Breathe Right, may also help to some extent. Several studies have shown that people with congestion, as well as those who just have narrow nasal passages, get some relief from these strips.
In one of them, published in 2000 in the European Respiratory Journal, 12 snorers with chronic stuffy noses used either the strips or a placebo during overnight analysis. Monitoring of both groups found that although sleep quality and snoring loudness were not reduced, the total amount of snoring lessened in those with the strips.
Also available over the counter are sprays that claim to lubricate throat tissues and prevent noisy vibrations.
But there is little scientific evidence that these work, Kline says. A 2004 study of one spray published in the journal Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery had 20 snorers try both an oil-based throat spray and a water-based placebo for one night each. It found that there was no improvement in snoring either when measured objectively with audiotape analyzed for frequency, duration and volume of snoring, or subjectively, via questionnaires filled out by bed partners.
Devices and alarms
Oral appliances that fit in the mouth like a double retainer are an option for treating both regular snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. These devices work by pulling the jaw forward, repositioning and opening up the airway. They must be worn nightly to be effective, Kezirian says and they are not without risks. They can cause jaw pain and orthodontic problems such as tooth movement.
A dentist trained in sleep medicine can fit you for a prescription oral appliance, but there are nonprescription versions sold through TV infomercials. These rely on a "boil and bite" method of customization you plunge the plastic mouthpiece into hot water and then bite down to create a custom fit.
The dentist-prescribed oral appliances have been shown to be a good option for sleep apnea and snoring treatment. A 10-year follow-up of patients using these devices published in the Journal of Prosthetic Dentistry in April found that 47 of 72 patients were still using their device at least six nights a week. Of these, 31 felt more refreshed upon waking. No measurements of actual snoring were made, however.
Kline believes the home variety are probably of limited utility. But if you are aware of the risks and are otherwise well that includes being sure you don't have sleep apnea they may be worth a try.
Finally, there are vibrating "snore alarms" that you strap to your wrist. The idea is that if you snore, the alarm will arouse you and you will readjust yourself and go back to sleep in a new, quieter position.
Kline says that although a bed partner may think these alarms work wonderfully, all they are doing is continually waking the snorers, keeping them from entering the deeply relaxed stages of sleep where snoring is more likely to occur. This can backfire. By depriving the snorer of sleep, you can end up making them so tired that when they do finally rest, they conk out so hard and their muscles relax so deeply that the snoring is actually worse.
If you find that your snoring is at its worst when you are on your back, but you just can't keep yourself from rolling over during the night, anti-snore pillows can force you into a side sleeping position or at least keep your head elevated and airways open when you are on your back. There are also vests and backpacks with balls or hard foam in them that can make it so unpleasant to be on your back that you'll roll over.
Of course, before purchasing any of these solutions you can always try home-brew remedies such as building a barricade of regular normal bed pillows behind yourself, raising the head of your bed, or sewing a tennis ball into the back of a nightshirt to help maintain a side-sleeping position.
For some so-called socially unacceptable snorers those whose snoring is so bad that they disturb those around them over-the-counter remedies just don't work. In these cases, stronger measures may be needed.
Continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, involves a machine that blows air at a prescribed pressure into a patient's nose, and is traditionally prescribed for those who have obstructive sleep apnea. Though it can also be used for simple snoring, the discomfort of the procedure plus the cost, which is usually not covered by insurance for regular snoring makes this rare.
Some people turn to surgery. A surgeon may be able to cure snoring by removing excess tissue in the palate, tongue, throat or nasal passages. There are several techniques available. The tissue can either be cut away or heated and damaged using radio waves. The healing process causes shrinkage and tightening that can reduce vibrations and noise.
Several new medical techniques offer the benefits of surgery, but with less pain and expense.
In 2001, Mair of UNC Chapel Hill introduced a new technique, injection snoreplasty, to treat snoring. It stemmed from wind tunnel tests of models of human palates, in which he discovered that creating a little scar right in the middle of the palate could put an end to vibrations that are the source of snoring. To make this kind of scar in patients, he uses a drug called Sotradecol that has been used for many years to treat varicose veins.