Snoring is the result of airflow passing through the upper airway, which in turn causes vibrations in the soft tissues. Any restriction of airflow—which can be caused by nasal congestion, excess weight around the neck or poor muscle tone in the throat, for example—boosts the likelihood of snoring. Drinking alcohol, smoking, vaping and the use of certain drugs, such as tranquillizers like lorazepam (Ativan) and diazepam (Valium), can contribute to snoring by increasing muscle relaxation in the throat.
Besides being a nuisance, snoring is often a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a serious condition that raises the risk for heart disease, diabetes and other chronic health problems. Your partner should see a doctor to rule this out.
Conventional treatment for snoring depends on the cause, but may involve surgery, which doesn't always work, or the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which can be cumbersome and claustrophobic (you have to sleep with a mask strapped to your face that delivers air through a hose).
Here are some alternative options your partner can try instead.
Allergies may play a role in snoring by causing inflammation and congestion of the nasal passages. Indeed, people with allergic rhinitis (stuffy nose caused by allergens such as dust, pollen and pet dander) and asthma are more likely to be snorers.2 And children who snore are more likely to have allergies.3
Consider working with a naturopathic practitioner who can help determine whether an allergy might be causing your snoring and recommend holistic options to treat it. It may be something as simple as changing your bedding, but could be more complex if a chronic condition like asthma is the root cause.
Singing exercises can strengthen the tone of the throat muscles, so may help reduce snoring. In fact, a trial of chronic snorers with either simple snoring or sleep apnea found that those who followed a program of self-guided singing exercises for 20 minutes a day for three months had a reduction in the severity, frequency and loudness of their snoring.1 The exercises they used were designed by singer and choir director Alise Ojay and are available to buy worldwide as a triple CD box set with an explanatory booklet from www.singingforsnorers.com.
Top tips for allergy sufferers
If an allergy is contributing to your snoring, reducing potential allergens in your sleeping environment may help. Here are some simple steps to try.
Install an air purifier to reduce dust, pollen, pet dander, mold spores and other indoor air pollutants.
Choose hypoallergenic bedding made from natural materials not treated with harsh synthetic chemicals. Organic wool, cotton and hemp are good options.
Wash bedding regularly to reduce dust mites, but choose natural, allergy-friendly detergents—preferably fragrance-free options.
A device called the SnoreMender was effective for treating snoring in a small study carried out by Danish dental surgeon Natashia Ingemarsson-Matzen. Over 90 percent of the volunteers succeeded in reducing their snoring by at least 50 percent, and many stopped snoring completely.6
The device is made of medical-grade dental thermoplastic and is free of latex, silicone, phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA). It can easily be shaped to fit the wearer's mouth by being twisted and tweaked as necessary (by either the wearer or a dentist), although it's not suitable for some people, such as those with loose teeth or gum disease, so check with a dentist before using it. It's available worldwide via www.snoremenders.co.uk.
Chinstraps, which keep the mouth closed while sleeping, are sometimes recommended for snoring. But while a single case study suggested they can be effective,7 a trial of 26 adults reported that a chinstrap device was ineffective for snoring and OSA.8
Whether you have OSA or simple snoring, sleeping on your side as opposed to your back might help. Sleeping on your back can cause the base of your tongue to collapse into the back of the throat, narrowing the airway. Changing your sleeping position, however, is easier said than done. If you need help, try using a special pillow designed to encourage side sleeping, which worked well for snoring in one study.4
There are also sleep position training devices available that vibrate when you move into an undesirable position. One called NightBalance appears to work for snoring,5 although it's not yet available to the general public. NightShift, which has a similar design, is available via www.nightshifttherapy.com (US) and www.mysleep.resmed.com (UK). Alternatively, a cheap solution is to sew a tennis ball into the back of your pajamas, making it uncomfortable to lie on your back.