Answers to Google’s top health searches: How can I stop snoring?

By WVU Medicine pulmonologists John Parker, MD, and Haresh Patel, MD

Has a family member or roommate told you that your snoring wakes them up? Most of us snore on occasion, but if you experience this nightly, snoring can reduce your quality of sleep, cause daytime irritability, put strain on your personal relationships, and lead to more serious health problems.

Dr. John Parker

Snoring is a sleep disorder indicating that air is unable to move freely through your nose and throat. Your body has to work harder to breathe, and as snoring worsens, you may experience brief periods without breathing caused by narrowed or blocked airways; this is known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This is serious if the episodes last more than 10 seconds each and occur several times per hour.

It’s important to talk with your doctor about your snoring issues before you try over-the-counter pills or nasal sprays. Your physician can help you determine which combination of the following snoring remedies might work best for you:

Sleep on your side. Sleeping on your back can make snoring worse, so it may be necessary to change your sleeping position.

Use a fresh pillow. Fluff your pillows in the dryer every couple of weeks, and buy new ones every six months to reduce allergens and dust mites. If possible, keep pets out of the bedroom, too.

Lose weight. Even modest weight loss has been shown to reduce the frequency of snoring.

Stop smoking. Smoking can irritate the airways and cause you to snore.

Drink less alcohol, especially before bedtime. Alcohol and sedatives increase your likelihood of snoring by relaxing the muscles in the back of your throat.

Try an external nasal dilator. These are sold as stiffened adhesive strips that you apply across the bridge of your nose to help open the nasal passage.

Review your medications with your doctor. Both prescriptions and over-the-counter medications have sedating effects that may increase snoring.

Get tested for OSA. If other measures to reduce snoring aren’t affective, ask your doctor about being screened for OSA. Testing involves a sleep study, which can be performed at home or at the WVU Medicine Sleep Evaluation Center. We’ll monitor your body's sleep effort, airflow, oxygen content, and stage of sleep to determine whether you have OSA or some other form of sleep-disordered breathing.

Try continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). With CPAP, you wear a mask that is attached to your nose or face, and air passes through your nose and throat to give you more restful sleep. Less obtrusive CPAP masks are available. WVU Medicine Sleep Evaluation Center technicians will work with you to find the best equipment that’s comfortable for you.

Wear an oral appliance. Your physician may refer you to a dentist who will fit you for an oral appliance to advance your jaw, change the position of your palate, and retract your tongue to help decrease snoring. These devices are typically used when other measures fail. 

If treatment is not successful, surgery may be beneficial. Surgical options are only used when other less invasive methods have been exhausted. WVU Medicine otolaryngologist Steven Coutras, MD, provides comprehensive surgical care for patients with OSA or snoring, specifically those who have not had successful medical treatment or are interested in exploring other treatment options.

Make an appointment: 855-WVU-CARE