Experts Review 8 Weird Ways To Prevent Snoring

From tennis balls to electric shocks, people around the world are using strange techniques to get a good night's rest.
A woman tries dripping water into her husband's mouth to stop his snoring.
Photoshot via Getty Images
A woman tries dripping water into her husband's mouth to stop his snoring.

Is snoring keeping you up at night or driving your partner crazy? You’re not alone. Data from a longitudinal study published in 1993 found that about 44 percent of men and 28 percent of women snore habitually, so this problem is happening in bedrooms across the nation.

Snoring happens when the upper airway muscles relax and constrict air flow through the throat, forcing air through a small space and causing a vibration — think of the way a kazoo or saxophone makes noise. This sound can be annoying for others — and can also wake you up at night, leaving you feel sleepy and foggy-headed the next day. That’s why many people who suffer from snoring look to unusual remedies to make it stop.

One of those alternative treatments? Learning to play the didgeridoo, an instrument traditionally played by indigenous Australians. Because the wind instrument requires the player to practice “circular breathing” — breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth at the same time — it can strengthen the throat muscles and help prevent the upper airway muscles from relaxing too much at night, thereby reducing snoring. A 2006 study has even shown didgeridoo playing to have a positive impact on those who snore, reducing their daytime sleepiness and helping to prevent fewer nighttime disruptions to partners.

But there are many alternative options to prevent snoring — some doctor recommended, others highly questionable. If you’re curious about alternative treatments, we investigated some of the most unusual remedies that get passed around and tested nightly in bedrooms, and asked experts which ones work — and which ones definitely don’t.

It’s important to note that while in many cases snoring may be the result of allergies, a cold, excessive alcohol consumption or weight, it can also be a symptom of a more serious condition known as obstructive sleep apnea. This is characterized by sudden stops in breathing during sleep that can be very dangerous. So if you’re snoring consistently, you should get checked out. A proper diagnosis and personalized treatment will help to ensure you get a full, restful night’s sleep.

1. Sew a tennis ball to the back of a T-shirt

What the experts say: Doctor-approved

Research has consistently confirmed that sleeping on your back is likely to increase snoring, since it allows your tongue to relax and slide into the back of your throat, obstructing air flow. By sewing or duct taping a tennis ball to the back of a T-shirt and wearing it to bed, you force yourself to sleep on your side, since rolling onto your back would be extremely uncomfortable.

Dr. Robert Oexman, director of the Sleep to Live Institute, recommends trying the tennis ball trick for at least two weeks — enough time to retrain yourself to sleep on your side.

2. Smart Nora

What the experts say: Proceed with caution

When placed next to your bed, this egg-shaped smart device will detect the sounds of snoring and gently move your head during sleep using an inflatable, wirelessly connected pillow insert, allowing you to breathe easily without waking you entirely.

Sounds great, but does it work? Experts are mixed on this product, with Dr. James MacFarlane, a sleep specialist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, recommending it as a non-invasive snoring solution. While New York-based dentist Dr. Edward Alvarez suggests that the repeated “microarousals” caused by moving the head around may reduce sleep quality and leave the user feeling tired the next morning.

3. Ujjayi breathing

What the experts say: Can’t hurt

This form of yogic breathing requires “inhaling slowly and slightly constricting the muscles of the throat, and using that constriction to exhale through the nose, generating a hissing sound,” explains yoga instructor Parinaz Samimi.

This “helps strengthen the throat muscles,” she says, improving nighttime air flow much like the didgeridoo. It’s harmless, so even if it doesn’t stop your snoring, it may help you to relax more during the day.

4. Compression socks

What the experts say: Proceed with caution

You know the tight socks you sometimes wear on long flights to prevent blood clots? Research from the University of Toronto in 2015 found that a small group of sleep apnea patients who wore compression socks to bed noted a 27 percent decrease disruptions in breathing when they wore the socks to bed over a two-week period. The research did not note a reduction in daytime sleepiness, however.

5. Tongue suction cup

What the experts say: Can’t hurt

Known more scientifically as a “tongue advancement device,” this gadget sticks to the tongue and pulls it toward the front of your mouth during sleep, bringing forward the muscles that may be obstructing your airway, according to Dr. Alvarez. “There is a possibility that this may work,” he says. “But it can be uncomfortable to use, and I don’t want to end up with a hickey on my tongue.”

6. Neti pot

What the experts say: Doctor-approved, but with a caveat

The neti pot, a teapot-like device used to pour a saline solution through the nasal passageway is another alternative. One thing to note about the Neti pot: Though it’s effective and relatively easy to use, it must be cleaned thoroughly with sterile, distilled, or boiled water that has been cooled to room temperature after every use. You can store previously boiled water in a sterile, closed container for up to 24 hours, according to the FDA. If not properly cleaned, a Neti pot can breed bacteria that can lead to infections, including the deadly “brain-eating amoeba.” With proper cleaning, though — never use unboiled tap water — nightly use is generally safe.

7. Electric shock

What the experts say: Skip it

No, we’re not talking about old-school electric shock therapy. There are modern-day devices — like the Hivox Stop Snoring Device — that are designed to send a gentle electric shock to the user if snoring is detected, which either negatively reinforces the behavior or stimulates the neck muscles and forces you to maintain muscle tone. Sound far-fetched? You’re right on the money.

“I feel like these should be in the back of comic books,” says Dr. Alvarez. “Please save your money.”

8. Learn a wind instrument

What the experts say: Doctor-approved

We mentioned above that playing the didgeridoo is one alternative, research-backed way to reduce or stop snoring, but learning to play other wind and brass instruments — such as the trumpet or trombone — has also been shown to reduce the likelihood of developing sleep apnea. Certain singing exercises have also been shown to strengthen the throat muscles and reduce nighttime snoring.

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