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Snorers, What's in Your Sleep Space Can Help

With nearly 45 percent of sleepers snoring at least occasionally, snoring is a common complaint in the bedroom, for the snorer, but more often, for the snorer's sleeping partner.
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With nearly 45 percent of sleepers snoring at least occasionally, snoring is a common complaint in the bedroom, for the snorer, but more often, for the snorer's sleeping partner.

A rising number of snorers have sleep apnea (a condition where breathing stops or gets shallow during sleeping). It's a serious condition requiring medical attention, and treatment may include using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine or surgery.

However, for the majority of "conventional" snorers, devices designed to address the issue abound, including chin straps, mouthpieces and nasal strips. Yet, many snorers find these devices uncomfortable, inconvenient and often ineffective. What else can be done about snoring?

Most snoring advice centers around the snorer themself, and rightly so. Our physiology and bodily state have a lot to do with the likelihood of snoring. You might be snoring due to a variety of reasons, including having nasal congestion or based on the characteristics of the soft tissues in your mouth. Also, your throat muscles relax differently depending on your sleep stage, which is why you may find yourself snoring only in the middle of the night or before morning breaks.

If you're a snorer, you may have heard the advice from sleep specialists to:
  • lose weight (if overweight)
  • abstain from alcohol before bedtime
  • avoid back sleeping
  • avoid tranquilizers, sleeping pills or antihistamines before bedtime
  • stay well-hydrated
  • sing (yes, sing) to tone throat muscles

These are all important considerations, some easier said than done.

But did you know that there are relatively effortless ways to mitigate snoring by improving your sleep space? Here are some suggestions.

Reduce allergens and irritants from your bedroom environment
We often think of snoring as a sleep problem. But for many, snoring is actually a respiratory problem that manifests itself during sleep. To this, consider ways to decrease the potential irritants, including dust mites, that can cause nasal congestion and exacerbate your propensity to snore or wheeze.

  • Wash bedding weekly in hot water
  • Cover your pillow with a pillow protector
  • Wash your pillows. If they're not washable, change them about once a year (and if your pillow's got stains, chances are you need a new one)
  • Dust your bedroom furnishings and vacuum weekly
  • Keep your furry friends off the bed; pet dander clings to bedding
  • Use a humidifier to keep dust mites at bay, as they thrive in hot humid weather
  • Remove clutter from the bedroom that can retain dust
  • Place several indoor plants in your bedroom
  • If pollen is less of a concern, open your windows to circulate air

Have you tried...?
One unconventional but reportedly effective approach is to use a Himalayan salt lamp in your bedroom. I keep a lamp on my nightstand and turn it on for the 2-3 hours before bedtime. When the heat from the lamp reacts with the salt, it creates a reaction that is believed to purify the air. Consumer reviews indicate that some sleepers who use these lamps have noticed a reduction in snoring and asthma symptoms.

Find a pillow that supports body alignment and comfort
As the co-founder of a startup that has done a lot of consumer testing with pillows of all types, people ask me what kind of pillow will "cure" snoring. I will never claim any pillow in the market can cure snoring. However, I will advise every snorer to ensure that their pillow provides ample support appropriate to their body. If a pillow doesn't, it can worsen the snoring problem by moving the body out of the proper alignment that helps keep airways open.

For general comfort, find a pillow that keeps your head and neck in neutral alignment for the position in which you primarily sleep - meaning your head is not pushed too far back or forward. If you're back sleeping on a soft pillow that squishes too far down, for instance, it can cause your tongue and soft palate to fall back in your throat.

Back sleeping can aggravate snoring, and for this reason, many snorers try to wean themselves out of this position to do more side sleeping. If you're sleeping on your side, you'll want a pillow that can fill the space between your head and the mattress. If you're a back sleeper bent on training yourself to sleep on your side, you may have heard the tip to sew tennis balls into the back of your sleepshirt. As a gentler alternative, consider getting a higher, firmer pillow optimal for side sleepers, as this may cause just enough discomfort to dissuade you from continually rolling to your back.

Have you tried...?
One pillow option is a buckwheat pillow. The buckwheat hulls inside the pillow can be maneuvered to contour to your head and neck and then "lock" into place. The support the hulls provide is consistent throughout the night and personalized to your body. So you can dictate the way the pillow cradles your neck and head for comfortable alignment, and it'll remain this way -- all great for creating those ideal conditions that diminish snoring. Some consumers in our testing and in other reviews of buckwheat pillows have indicated that these pillows have helped abate their snoring.

Note, these pillows are very firm, almost hard, so they can take some getting used to. But I find buckwheat pillows to be optimal for back sleeping (if you must), with back sleepers commenting that they're able to sleep undisturbed for hours on these pillows. So if you're a snorer who can't get away from back sleeping, a buckwheat pillow might be a good option.