Sleeping with a loud snorer? Here’s an idea.
It’s a situation no one wants, yet many find themselves in. You’re in bed, wide awake, and the person you share a bed with is sound asleep—and snoring. Whether the snores prevent you from falling asleep or wake you up throughout the night, putting a stop to it can make a world of difference for both you and the snorer. Thankfully, there are scientifically proven methods to quiet snorers that go beyond earplugs.
Let’s unpack what causes snoring in the first place. Most people don’t realize that there’s a very real connection between snoring and sleep disordered breathing. The structure of your throat is mostly soft and stretchy muscle, with few rigid elements to keep it open. When you’re awake, you’re typically upright, and your frequency of breath varies with different activities like talking, laughing, or even singing.
When sleeping, however, you lay down and breathe at a much more regular pace. Snoring happens when your airway is partially collapsed, causing the tissues in the soft palate and throat to vibrate as air moves in and out of your throat. When asleep, the muscles in your throat naturally relax, and gravity and your body weight make your airway much more likely to experience a full or partial collapse.
One of the most recommended ways to help alleviate instances of snoring is to have the snorer sleep on their side. Side sleeping is the healthiest sleeping position for people with sleep apnea because it increases your nightly oxygen intake and protects the airway from collapse. Many people feel that they breathe better and snore less when sleeping on their side. According to one study, around 92% of those suffering from sleep-disordered breathing breath better when they’re not on their back.
A snoring bed partner can make for noisy, unpleasant nights. Telling someone to roll over, sleep on their side, or creating an environment that encourages side sleeping are all tactics to reduce snoring and other sleep-disordered breathing symptoms.
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What else would make your partner snore less? In addition to sleeping on their side, there are a few other strategies to try.
Avoid alcohol before bed. There are many reasons to avoid alcohol before bed. It relaxes your airway muscles, leading to more snoring. It results in less deep, restorative sleep, and it can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night to urinate.
Treat your allergies and any other respiratory issues you may be dealing with.
Lose weight. A larger neck circumference and pressure on the chest and throat are natural contributors to gravity pushing down on the airway, making snoring more severe. Losing weight may help reduce this.
Test things out. There are numerous products available to consumers that are designed improve their incidences and snoring and overall sleep experience, from special pillows to nose strips. There’s also the Beddr SleepTuner, which has been shown to provide hospital-grade analysis on breathing and sleeping position.
Side sleeping reduces snoring, and it can also reduce incidences of sleep apnea. Snoring and sleep apnea aren’t always related, but it’s not uncommon to see them together. One positional therapy study indicates that side sleeping is also quite effective for treating sleep apnea. A recent study of 105 people with positionally-driven sleep apnea (meaning they have 2x the breathing events when sleeping on their backs) showed that 75% of patients reduced their incidents of sleep apnea to less than five events per hour. Below 5 events/hour is considered “normal” or “healthy” by sleep physicians. That means effectively three-quarters of them can solve their apnea with positional changes alone.
Generally speaking, sleeping on your back is the least recommended position for those with sleep apnea and sleep health professionals often advise against it. That said, if you do sleep on your back, make sure you use a pillow that supports your neck, tilts your head slightly, and helps open your airway.
Some people use earplugs in an attempt to muffle the sound of their snoring bed partner, or give up and resign themselves to sleeping on the couch. Setting up the sleeping environment to encourage side sleeping can be a helpful, effective tactic to make the sleep space more comfortable and hopefully quiet things down.
Tom Goff is the Co-founder and CTO of Beddr. Prior to Beddr, he was a founding member of numerous health tech and medical device startups including Shockwave Medical and Kerberos Proximal Solutions and holds over 40 patents. Tom studied Product Design at Stanford University and is an active StartX alumni mentor.