If your family says you sound like a freight train when you sleep, then you're probably among the 45 percent of Americans who snore at least occasionally.
There's also a good chance you've wondered how to stop snoring. After all, snoring makes it hard to get a good night's rest — not just for you, but for anyone trying to get some sleep in your vicinity. Snoring can also be frustrating and embarrassing, because you're obviously not emitting those loud sounds on purpose.
Want to nip your snoring habit in the bud? We reached out to Dr. Rita Aouad, a sleep medicine specialist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, to tell us how to do it.
1. First, make sure your snoring isn't a sign of an underlying health problem
Snoring occurs when your breath can't flow freely through the passages behind your nose and mouth. Sometimes, it can be "a sign of a much more serious condition called obstructive sleep apnea," Aouad tells MensHealth.com. "OSA is a respiratory disorder that occurs in sleep when the airway narrows or closes, causing oxygen levels in the blood to fall."
If left untreated, OSA can lead to:
- decreased quality of life
- excessive daytime sleepiness
- increased risk of high blood pressure
- heart disease
Fortunately, "OSA can be easily treated with CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) to keep the airway open while you sleep," Aouad says. "If you suspect OSA, talk to your doctor about seeing a sleep specialist."
Once you've ruled out OSA, you can explore some of these easy ways to stop snoring for good.
2. Use a nasal strip or nasal dilator
These devices may help widen your nasal passages, making it easier for air to flow through unobstructed.
Nasal strips like Breathe Right adhere to the outside of the nose and pull your airways open. Nasal dilators like this anti-snoring device go inside your nostrils and gently push your airways open.
3. Use an over-the-counter mouthpiece
Anti-snoring mouthpieces "may also be effective," Aouad says. These devices typically work by adjusting the positions of your jaw and tongue to help you breathe more easily, and thus prevent snoring.
4. Change your sleep position
"Avoid sleeping on the back, since snoring is often worse in the supine position," Aouad says. Try using a wedge pillow to keep you from lying flat on your back.
Some experts even recommend sewing a pouch onto the back of your pajama top and placing a tennis ball inside, making it uncomfortable for you to roll onto your back during sleep.
5. Don't drink booze before bed
"Avoid alcohol and sedating medications," Auouad says. "They are respiratory depressants that can worsen snoring."
6. Take a nasal spray or allergy medication if you're sick
When your nose is all stuffed up, it's extra hard to pull air through your airway. This creates an "exaggerated vacuum" in your throat, which causes the soft tissues to bump into each other and produce snoring, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery.
"Some people snore because of nasal congestion," Aouad says. "An over-the-counter nasal spray or allergy medication may be helpful."
7. If all else fails, you can try surgery
"Surgery may be an option, but I would recommend this as a last resort if all other options have failed," Aouad says.
"If upper airway crowding is the cause of snoring, then surgery such a uvulopalatopharyngeoplasty (UP3) may be considered. This is a procedure that removes the uvula and nearby tissue to open up the airway," she explains. "If nasal septum deviation is the cause of the snoring, then septoplasty may be an option.
"As with all surgeries, these procedures are associated with risks, including but not limited to, infection and bleeding," she adds, so these options should only be considered in severe cases.
This article originally appeared on Men's Health US.