Anyone who snores – or sleeps beside someone who does – is intimately familiar with how much disruption it can cause.
It’s not just a nuisance; snoring can lead to sleep deprivation, which can seriously impact a person’s ability to concentrate or perform tasks, as well as overall quality of life. Heavy snoring could also be a sign of bigger problems, including an increased risk of high blood pressure and sleep apnea, which occurs when a person repeatedly stops breathing while asleep.
Advertisements abound for all types of devices, sprays or medical interventions that claim to cure snoring. While tempting, is there any clear evidence that these remedies work?
What is snoring, anyway?
Snoring is actually the sound of the vibration that occurs when air flows past relaxed tissues in the back of the throat. One in three men and one in four women do it, according to Statistics Canada. Some of the most common causes of snoring include smoking, alcohol consumption, congestion, allergies, being overweight and being chronically sleep deprived. Consumption of dairy products can also trigger snoring for some individuals, according to Charles Samuels, a vice-president at the Canadian Sleep Society and medical director at the Centre for Sleep and Human Performance in Calgary.
Is there any hope?
The most effective way to combat snoring is to mitigate possible triggers. But is there payoff for using home remedies or medical interventions?
Nasal strips: These products, such as Breathe Right, actually provide significant relief for some snorers by helping to open nasal passages. Dr. Samuels said this method is ideal for those who snore due to nasal congestion, but won’t work for everyone.
Positional therapy: Lying on your side helps enhance airflow. Many people rely on a simple trick – attaching a tennis ball to the back of their pyjamas, to avoid rolling onto their backs. Dr. Samuels advises patients invest in foam wedge pillows, which are about $50, to ensure they remain on their side
Nasal sprays: While some nasal sprays are recommended as a short-term fix for people who are congested or suffer from allergies, sprays that promise to clear up snoring likely won’t work because they don’t deal with the root of the problem, Dr. Samuels said.
Oral appliances: Devices that help stabilize the lower jaw to maintain proper airflow can be highly effective. But Dr. Samuels warns that people can waste money on devices that are not properly fitted, or are of a lower quality. Patients should deal with a dentist who has expertise in the area, said Michael Decker, spokesman for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and associate professor in nursing, neuroscience and respiratory therapy at Georgia State University.
Surgery: Although advertisements have helped make this option more popular, surgery should only be considered for patients who have failed other therapies because of the potential risks involved, Dr. Decker said.
Continuous positive airway pressure: These masks, which blow air into the nose to keep a person’s airway open, are typically available by prescription and are reserved for patients with diagnosed sleep apnea.
The bottom line:
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to snoring problems. Getting to the root cause of a person’s snoring is often the best way to determine what product might provide the most relief.
Reality Check is a monthly column that investigates the claims behind health products.