How to Stop Snoring

What really works—and what doesn't

snoring pug iStock-1089417976, iStock-974918048

About 37 million Americans snore, making grunting, whistling, choking, snorting, and/or buzz-saw-like sounds on a regular basis, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

The bothersome noises occur when a person's airway narrows or is partly blocked during sleep, often because of nasal congestion, floppy tissue, alcohol, or enlarged tonsils.

More on Sleep

Snoring can be more than “a benign annoyance,” says Charlene Gamaldo, M.D., medical director of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center in Baltimore. Your snoring can ruin your partner’s shut-eye and be a red flag for obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA.

OSA is marked by noisy stops and starts in breathing during sleep, and it hikes the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, cardiac arrhythmia, and hypertension. And 34 percent of men and 19 percent of women who snore routinely have OSA or are at risk for it, says the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Here, advice on how to stop snoring—for yourself or for the person you share a bed with.

Start With Lifestyle Steps to Stop Snoring

Even if you’re unsure whether you have so-called primary snoring or OSA, our experts suggest beginning with these steps:

Ease a stuffy nose. Over-the-counter nasal strips “may help keep nasal passageways open,” says Romy Hoque, M.D., an assistant professor of neurology at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. You can also rinse your nose with an OTC saline solution or stand in a steamy shower. (See our guide to easing congestion and other cold and flu symptoms.)

Elevate your head. You can buy a special pillow to lift your chin and keep your tongue from blocking the back of your throat as you sleep. But any wedge-shaped pillow will do, Hoque says.

Sleep on your side. To keep from rolling onto your back during the night, which triggers snoring, place a body or bolster pillow against your back. You can also consider an anti-snore pillow, which has a cutout in the center designed to keep you on your side. These may help address mild snoring problems in people who snore only when lying on their back, explains Jennifer Hsia, M.D., an assistant professor in the department of otolaryngology, head, and neck surgery at the University of Minnesota Medical School. (They will not be effective for those who also snore on their sides.)

Avoid alcohol for 4 hours before bed. It relaxes your airway muscles, constricting airflow.

Quit smoking. Tobacco smoke can irritate throat membranes.

Lose excess weight. “Fat around the neck compresses the upper airway and impedes airflow,” says Raj Dasgupta, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. In fact, OSA has been associated with a neck circumference greater than 17 inches for men and greater than 16 inches for women.

Strengthen Your Mouth and Tongue

Snoring occurs when soft tissue in your throat partly blocks the airway and airflow causes the tissue to vibrate, producing the telltale noise. Some research suggests that strengthening the mouth and tongue may help prevent snoring.

Researchers in Brazil found that volunteers who performed the moves below daily over three months reduced their snoring frequency by 36 percent and the intensity of snores by 59 percent compared with those who didn’t do the exercises.

By contrast, a group of people who wore nasal-dilator strips to sleep saw only minimal improvements.

The short exercise routine, done three times a day, includes moves that the researchers say can be done after brushing your teeth or even while driving your car.

Here are four exercises to try to help you stop snoring (perform each 20 times):

Exercise 1: Push the tip of the tongue against the roof of the mouth and slide the tongue backward.

Exercise 2: Suck the tongue upward against the roof of the mouth and press the entire tongue against the roof of the mouth.

Exercise 3: Force the back of the tongue against the floor of the mouth while keeping the tip of the tongue in contact with the bottom front teeth.

Exercise 4: Elevate the soft palate (the back of the roof of the mouth) and the uvula (the fleshy protrusion that hangs from the soft palate) while making the vowel sound “A.”

What has helped you stop snoring?

Tell us in the comments below.

When You Need More Help

If lifestyle strategies don’t help you stop snoring, see your doctor, a sleep specialist, or an otolaryngologist, who may recommend an overnight sleep test to see whether you have OSA.

For primary snoring or mild to mod­er­ate OSA, an oral appliance worn during sleep shifts the lower jaw and tongue forward, keeping the airway open.

Over-the-counter devices are available, but our experts recommend one that’s customized for you, which is usually covered by insurance. In 2015, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine noted that there is moderate evidence that they improve quality of life.

The gold standard for moderate to severe OSA is continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, which delivers air to your airway during sleep to keep it open. A 2016 study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that CPAP helped reduce daytime sleepiness and snoring (but not cardiovascular risks) for people who were followed for an average of almost four years.

When other methods fail or are intolerable—CPAP adherence may be as low as 50 percent—surgery, such as a procedure to remove excess tissue in the nose, mouth, or throat, may be an option to help you stop snoring.

A newer procedure called hypoglossal nerve stimulation uses a small device implanted in the chest to help control the movement of the tongue when it blocks the airway. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2014 reported that after 12 months of use, this reduced temporary stops in nighttime breathing by 68 percent. But it can cost up to $40,000 and is usually not covered by insurance.

How to Get a Good Night's Sleep

Not getting enough zzzs? Jack Rico, host of the "Consumer 101" TV show, gets expert CR tips on how to fall asleep faster and wake up more rested.

Catherine Winters

Catherine Winters is a freelance writer who regularly contributes to the Consumer Reports On Health newsletter and to Consumer Reports on health-related topics. A former marathon runner and amateur actress, she now spends her free time cycling, cross-country skiing, devouring macarons, and watching “Downton Abbey.”