Written by Naturopath & Herbalist Izzy Kirkby
Snoring isn’t just a nightmare for your bed partner, it can be an indicator of potential health issues. So, it’s time to take snoring seriously. Fortunately, there are a lot of snoring solutions.
To find the right snoring treatment, it will depend on the type you have. There are four common types of snoring that have different root causes which might explain why off-the-shelf solutions may not have worked for you before.
If you’re not sure which type of snoring you have, record yourself at night, ask a loved one to observe any patterns or see a medical professional.
Why do people snore? And what can you do about it?
Type 1: Nose snoring
This snoring sounds like a loud whistle. You might wake up with a dry mouth, bad breath, and headaches. You might find that breathing through the nose is difficult even when you’re awake.
Blockages in the nose can cause difficulty breathing and snoring. This could be due to a deviated septum, trauma to the nose or some other physical obstruction such as polyps. Other causes include inflammation from allergies, colds or types of medication.
- To clear and reduce sinus inflammation and congestion you could try herbs such as goldenseal - look for a sustainable source (hydrastis candensis), wild indigo (baptisia tinctora) and frankincense (boswellia serrata). If you can’t get hold of those, simply try adding hot water to a bowl with aromatic herbs such as peppermint, thyme, eucalyptus and oregano, placing a towel over your head and inhaling the steam to clear sinuses.
- Nasal rinses such as ¼ teaspoon of salt to 250ml of water can dilate nasal passages and clear inflammation. Or even just a hot shower before bed can also calm the nervous system and open the nasal passages.
- In Ayurveda, simply placing 2 drops of clarified ghee in each nostril morning and night can help with snoring.
- Nasal strips and dilators which are applied on the nose can increase the space in the nasal passage making it easier to breathe freely.
Type 2: Mouth snoring
This snoring only happens when your mouth is open and you might tend to sleep on your back or your side.
This can be from blocked nasal passages, enlarged tonsils or weak palatal tissue which may cause you to breathe through your mouth instead of your nose. Or, you may be used to breathing through the mouth. However, breathing through the mouth can increase the chance of infections as the nose isn’t filtering the air that’s passing through.
- To avoid snoring through the mouth, try adhesive tape or mouth guards that can help you keep your mouth closed. Yes it can be as bizarre as taping your mouth shut at night – it’s a whole phenomen on the internet right now.
- Buteyko breathing trains the body to breathe through the nose, instilling the right habits for nose breathing when asleep.
- To tighten weak tissue in the mouth and throat, herbal astringents (herbs that tighten tissues) such as raspberry leaf, myrhh or sage can be made into a tea and gargled before bedtime.
Type 3: Tongue snoring
This type of snoring usually only happens when sleeping on your back. The sound will be inconsistent and high-pitched. You may also notice you have a very large tongue!
Tongue snoring happens when the tongue gets too relaxed and blocks the airflow to the lungs making it difficult to breathe. It can happen in people who’ve been drinking alcohol or taking sleep medication. Excessive fat around the neck may also be a cause of tongue-based snoring.
- Anti-snoring pillows can help prevent this kind of snoring. They keep you on your side, preventing you from turning on your back, and avoiding difficulty in breathing. There are also snoring mouthpieces or mandibular advancement devices (MADs) designed to move your jaw forward, preventing the tongue from blocking the back of your throat and interrupting your breathing.
- Reducing alcohol intake. Alcohol relaxes the throat muscles which leads to snoring. It’s always advisable to quit alcohol if you’re snoring. If you do drink, have your last drink at least 3 hours before sleeping.
- Sleeping pills and sedatives can also be a cause of mouth snoring so speak to your doctor about your medication. There are gentler, herbal alternatives so perhaps consult a herbalist to try alternatives such as hops, chamomile, valerian, skullcap and California poppy.
Type 4: Throat snoring
This tends to be the loudest snore…so your partner will know about this one!
The common signs of throat snoring is that you snore, no matter what position you’re in, you wake up with a dry mouth, you have difficulty breathing during sleep and you’re sleepy during the day.
Throat based snoring is associated with a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). OSA means that you stop breathing in your sleep so you’re likely to be tired in the day from lack of restful sleep. The good news is not all snorers have OSA but it’s important to get this checked out if you have any of the following symptoms: excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating during the day, morning headaches, sore and/or dry throat upon waking, gasping or choking at night, high blood pressure or chest pain at night.The signature snore for OSA is loud snoring followed by periods of silence when breathing stops, which may wake you up possibly with a gasping sound or loud snort. This can happen at least five times an hour during sleep which leads to light sleeping.
Here are just a few other tips that may improve snoring:
- Nasal inflammation can be caused by certain foods so it can be worth experimenting with diet to find triggers. A common one is dairy products so you may want to work with a nutritional therapist and try eliminating dairy for 30 days to see if it improves.
- Snoring caused by dust allergies can be improved through air filters and hypoallergenic bedding.
- Smoking is a major contributor to habitual snoring - it might be time to quit!
- Dehydration can lead to mucus formation in the nose, which leads to snoring, so keep up your water intake.
- Stress can also weaken your throat and tongue muscles so try stress relieving activities or herbal adaptogens such as ashwagandha, liquorice and Siberian ginseng.
- There are acupressure rings you can wear whilst sleeping. They apply pressure to meridian points to clear congestion and strengthen the respiratory tract.
Elevating the position of your head by four inches may help reduce the sound of snoring. The increased height helps keep the airways open, reducing the vibrations.
- Working with an osteopath or chiropractor can support weakness in the muscles around the upper respiratory tract and neck, which can be a contributing factor. This can be aggravated by spending hours slouched at a computer, which results in a ‘chin forward’ posture. This can cause the skull to be pushed back and the upper airways to be compressed even further, making snoring considerably worse over time.
There are lots of ideas so, if it feels overwhelming, create an action plan of different things you could try one at a time.
Remember, you don’t need to do it alone! There are professionals such as nutritional therapists, herbalists, breathwork practitioners, myofunctional therapists and many more that can provide bespoke support for your journey.
The changes can be dramatic. Improved sleep allows the body to rest and repair, leading to a stronger immune system, lower stress, better relationships, a healthy heart, balanced weight and improved memory and concentration.
So, remember, take snoring seriously. Your health starts with a good night’s sleep!