Snoring is an age-old problem that has no doubt been putting a strain on relationships since human beings first shared a cave. It’s not surprisingthen, that countless old wives’ tales on how to prevent snoring have grown up over the ages. Some of them are complete rubbish, but others might have a grain of truth behind them. We examine some of the most popular ones below.
Avoiding sleeping on your back
It’s true that sleeping on your back is more likely to cause snoring. However, many people still snore even when lying on their front or side, so while this might help for some, it won’t work for everyone. Besides, some people might find it uncomfortable to sleep on their front or side, and there’s also the likelihood of turning over in your sleep.
Ball in back of pyjamas
This is based on the same idea that sleeping on your back encourages snoring. The suggestion is to sew a tennis or golf ball in the back of the snorer’s pyjamas, which will wake the snorer if they happen to turn on to their back. Again, it might work for some, but many people still snore even if lying on their front or side.
One of the stranger-sounding snoring ‘cures’ is to place the snorer’s hand in a bowl of water, or, alternatively, place a bowl of water under the bed. It sounds like nonsense, but it has been suggested that the water might help to humidify the air, which in turn might lubricate the airways and help to reduce snoring. Seems a long shot at best though.
Milk before bed
It has been suggested that this might have some effect, again by lubricating the airways. On the other hand, milk can stimulate mucus production – and the more mucus you produce, the more likely you are to snore. You could try a spoonful of honey or olive oil instead.
Gargling with garlic
Crush up some cloves of garlic, add to hot water and gargle with the mixture. It’s thought that garlic might help to reduce mucus production, which could reduce the tendency to snore. Could be worth a try, if your partner doesn’t find your garlic breath as bad as your snoring.
Eating horseradish or onion before bed
Again, horseradish, onion or other hot or spicy foods may help to inhibit mucus production and clear sinus blockage, which might help with snoring. May be helpful for some.
Toothpaste under nostrils
This one comes with a royal endorsement – it’s reported to be used by Prince Charles. As with the horseradish and garlic treatments, it might help to keep the airways clear.
Alcohol before bed
Some people think that a tot or three before bed will help them sleep more soundly and make them less likely to snore. However, alcohol relaxes the muscles and this is liable to make the drinker more likely to snore rather than less.
Rubbing upper lip of snorer / turning snorer’s head
This might work briefly, but usually only by waking the snorer up.
Taking up singing / phonetic exercises
It has been claimed that exercising the throat muscles through singing or phonetic exercises might help to tighten them up, thus reducing the tendency to snore. There’s little evidence that it works, however. By all means take up singing, but don’t expect it to cure your snoring. Depending on how tuneful your voice is, it might annoy your partner even more.
Sleeping without pillows
Another old-time remedy based on the principle of altering the sleeping position. It may be helpful in some cases, but might be hard to adjust to for people who are used to sleeping with a pillow.
Sucking a dummy
The idea is that sucking a dummy will keep the mouth closed. Chances are, though, it will just fall out when asleep. It might give your partner a laugh, but probably won’t cure your snoring.
It’s worth mentioning that the British Snoring & Sleep Apnoea Association tested most of these ‘cures’ in a controlled study and found little or no evidence that they were really effective.
There are some even more outlandish traditions with a whiff of witchcraft about them, such as putting an axe under the snorer’s pillow, or burying a lock of the snorer’s hair under a willow tree in moonlight. Needless to say, there is no reason to suppose these will work either, but you could always try them for fun.
On a serious note, though, snoring can be a real problem. Although it isn’t usually harmful in itself, it sometimes can be indicative of more serious health issues, such as sleep apnoea. Moreover, some studies have suggested that people who snore may be at higher risk for illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Aside from the snorer’s own health, their snoring can have serious consequences for their relationship and / or their partner’s well-being. A good night’s sleep is important for all of us. Sleep deprivation caused by a partner’s snoring can lead to fatigue, irritability, inability to concentrate, cognitive impairment, loss of libido, stress and general detriment to a person’s quality of life. In some cases snoring has been the cause of relationship breakdown and divorce, while other couples have had to resort to sleeping in separate bedrooms.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. If the traditional remedies don’t work, there are other things you can try. Some people find nasal strips or sprays useful to keep the airways open, or there are special orthopaedic pillows that are designed to reduce the tendency to snore. As snoring is often linked with obesity, losing weight may help for some. As a last resort, there are surgical procedures that can bring about a cure. In any event, if snoring is a real problem, it’s worth consulting your doctor about the options available.
In conclusion, we may joke about it, but for many individuals – and couples – snoring is a real problem and is no laughing matter. If the traditional ‘cures’ don’t work, get help to deal with the issue properly, or you may find yourself sleeping alone.