There's such a thing as being a sound sleeper, but then there's the type of sleeper who just… generates sound. My dad is an example of the latter—he could practically guide a ship through fog with his earth-shattering snoring, and my entire family has been on the hunt for a remedy for years.
The main cause of my dad's deafening habit is that he has sleep apnea, where the airway collapses or becomes blocked during sleep. However, sleep apnea and snoring aren't mutually exclusive—if you snore, that doesn't necessarily mean that you have the disorder. It's a possibility, though, so check with your doctor to rule out the condition if you're trying to snooze quietly as well as alleviate the other symptoms that come as a direct result.
If you don't have sleep apnea and just snore loudly, though, we're here to help. As it turns out, there's a large possibility that your anatomy is to blame: According to Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., "In persons with enlarged tonsils or tongue, lying flat on your back or opening your mouth to breathe increases the resonance and noise production of these vibrating tissues." Deviated septums, blocked nasal passageways, and elongated uvulas also affect the airflow into the body, projecting the snoring vibrations even further.
So to figure out how to cut back on the nightly noise that comes with these anatomical obstructions, we turned to Breus and Monica Tadros, MD, FACS, for their expertise—what we discovered is that many of their tips will actually help benefit your overall health in the long run. Keep scrolling to learn more!
Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
"Excessive tiredness and irregular sleep patterns can worsen snoring," says Tadros. This is because your body is trying to achieve a deeper sleep when you're exhausted, so your muscles are more relaxed, leading to obstructed breathing. Try to get on a normal sleep cycle, not just to lower your snoring volume, but to reset and repair your body and keep your mind sharp in general.
"In some people, weight gain causes increased crowding in the throat, causing tissues to take up more space and hang lower and vibrate more readily," explains Tadros. The back of the tongue also has the ability to get "fatter," causing an obstructed airway. She explains that as you gain weight, the back of the tongue actually accumulates fat within the muscle and gets larger, worsening snoring. Excess fat in the throat also causes the muscles to collapse, which brings on those loud vibrations. To prevent this from happening, eat lean, healthy meals and exercise frequently to shed excess weight.
Invest in a Good Pillow
"The position of all the throat structures can be negatively affected by pillows that hyperflex or do not support the neck well," explains Tadros. Wedge pillows are a great solution, as they help to elevate the throat and head to allow for a more open airway.
Watch What You Eat (and Drink)
According to Tadros, eating heavy meals and drinking alcohol before bed makes matters worse: The former (along with spicy and tomato-based foods) can trigger indigestion, and the latter relaxes the muscles in the throat, all of which lead to loud snoring. Consider cutting back on your alcohol content and planning your meals strategically so that you aren't consuming a full course before you hit the pillow.
Breus explains that patients with nasal blockage may suffer from chronic mouth-opening, causing dry mouth and increased audible snoring. Try opening the nasal passages with this stick-on ventilator (applied to the nostrils) to help decongest.
You may also be a candidate for surgery to remove excess tissue in the throat or enlarged tonsils or adenoids, or your doctor may prescribe a mouthpiece (sort of like a retainer) to help open up the airway. If the above remedies don't do the trick, consider seeing a doctor for the best solution.
Next up, take a look at how to avoid "pillow face" in the morning.