Health Matter – Snoring….but over-the-counter 'cures' fail for majority

1 Comment » June 22nd, 2009 posted by // Categories: Health


Snoring ‘cures’ fail for majority

snoring man

Snoring can be a serious problem

Nearly three-quarters of people who try over-the-counter remedies for snoring find they do not work, a survey shows.

Consumer watchdog Which? then tested various remedies including nasal strips and throat sprays that nearly 2,000 of its members with snoring had tried.

Few provided relief and some disturbed the users’ sleep so much that they were reluctant to use them again.

Experts said it was important to identify the causes of snoring before seeking a remedy.


Which? senior researcher Joanna Pearl

A Which? spokesman said: “You may snore for several reasons so buying a single cure may not solve your problem.”

For example, if you snore on your back, you may be a tongue-based snorer – where the tongue falls back and impedes your airway.

If you have your mouth open, this may be the problem.

Or it could be a problem with the nose, such a misshapen nose or small, collapsing nostrils, or simple congestion or catarrh.

Other factors can play a part, including sleeping position – on your back is worse – and excess weight or alcohol consumption.

Tried and tested

The seven devices tested by seven couples for Which? included SnoreMender, a removable dental device to hold the jaw forward to help keep the airway open.

Although the tester found it worked, he said it was so uncomfortable that he would be reluctant to use it again.

Similarly, Snore Calm Chin-up strips reduced snoring, but the tester suspected this was only because he was awake longer due to discomfort.

Another remedy trialled was Lloydspharmacy Stop Snoring, a wrist-worn device that gives the user small electric shocks if sounds are detected so the snorer changes position without waking.

The tester said she was woken 20 times in one night and was left with marks on her arms as the pads on the electrodes didn’t stay in place.

Lloydspharmacy said the device had received a lot of positive feedback from users.

The pulse setting was adjustable and had to be set high enough to interrupt the snoring and encourage the wearer to change position, but not so high as to wake them up.


Four in every 10 (about 15 million in total) UK adults snore, according to estimates

10.4 million are males and 4.5 million females

Men are perceived to be louder snorers than women

Source: BSSAA

Which? concluded there was some evidence that nasal strips, such as those they tested made by Breathe Right, could help the 15-20% who snore because of a nasal problem.

But it said some available devices, such as the Snore No More wire device that fits in the nostrils and a throat spray called Helps Stop Snoring, had little or no direct evidence yet to support their claims.

The Singing for Snorers CD, a three-month exercise programme designed to tone the muscles, provided some relief, although Which? says it is not clear whether snoring is caused by untoned muscles.

No cure all

Which? senior researcher Joanna Pearl said: “People can spend hundreds of pounds trying to cure snoring, but in a survey of nearly 2,000 Which? online panel members, 71% found that the snoring aid they bought was not very or not at all effective.

“There’s no one ‘cure’ for snoring as everyone snores for different reasons, and it’s important to try and pinpoint why you snore so you can try the right solution.

“Before you buy, see what you can do yourself and rule out potential health problems such as severe sleep apnoea. And talk to a health professional such as a GP or dentist if it doesn’t improve.”

Obstructive sleep apnoea is a condition which causes interruptions in breathing during sleep and may harm the snorer.

Beccy Mullins, a clinical nurse specialist who runs a number of sleep-disordered breathing clinics throughout the UK, said: “Since untreated sleep apnoea may contribute to other serious illnesses, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease I would recommend that anyone who has a snoring issue, considers the possibility of this condition.”

Marianne Davey, of the British Snoring & Sleep Apnoea Association, said there were many causes of snoring, and a device would only stand a chance of working if given to a patient whose snoring was caused by the specific problem the treatment was designed to tackle.

Simply trying out a device without first pinning down the cause of the problem was doomed to failure.

Man sleeping

Dr Rob Hicks


What causes it?

The noise of snoring is caused by parts of the nose and throat – in particular, the soft palate – vibrating as you breathe in and out. At night, the muscles that help keep your airways open relax and become floppy. This causes the airways to narrow and vibrate more, making snoring more likely.

There are also a number of factors that can make snoring worse:

  • Alcohol or sleeping tablets – these relax the muscles even further
  • Being overweight – this puts pressure on the airways
  • Colds, allergies, nasal polyps, a damaged or crooked nose – can block the nose, causing you to breathe through your mouth
  • Smoking – smokers are twice as likely as non-smokers to snore because their airways get inflamed and blocked
  • Sleeping on your back

Prods, kicks, and punches from your partner, the threat of divorce and complaints from the neighbours are all common.

You may also be suffering with obstructive sleep apneoa. In this condition, the relaxed throat muscles block the airway briefly hundreds of times each night stopping you breathing and depriving your body of oxygen.

In the short-term this causes tiredness during the day, irritability and restlessness, and puts you at risk of accidents when driving, for example.

In the long-term it can cause high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Treatment involves wearing a dental splint and using a continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP) machine while you sleep to keep the airways properly ventilated.

What’s the treatment?

The following can help reduce the chances of you snoring:

  • Avoid drinking alcohol late at night
  • Maintain your ideal weight
  • Raise the head of the bed
  • Sleep on your side (to stop you rolling on to your back, sew a ball in the back of your pyjama top or wedge a pillow under your back)
  • Keep your nasal passages clear by using a humidifier, inhaling steam or rubbing a few drops of eucalyptus or olbas oil on your pillowcase (antihistamine tablets and/or anti-inflammatory nasal sprays may help; always check with the pharmacist that they’re suitable for you, especially if you’re taking other medicines)


Other ‘cures’ you may want to try include nasal strips, devices that reposition the jaw and sprays. Try a few to see what works for you.

As a last resort, surgery can be used to remove nasal polyps, straighten crooked noses and cut out floppy soft palate tissue to stop it vibrating.

Laser surgery stiffens the palate to reduce vibration. Somnoplasty uses radio frequency energy to shrink the floppy soft palate tissue rather than cutting it out.

British Sleep Society


Sleep Apnoea Trust

Tel: 0845 606 0685

This article was last medically reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks in July 2006.

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One Response to “Health Matter – Snoring….but over-the-counter 'cures' fail for majority”

  1. raulhealth says:

    Similar to self-help remedies, anti-snore devices are designed largely to hold the snorer

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