Snoring can wreak real havoc with your sleep patterns – and those of your partner's, if you share a bed. While snoring isn't necessarily a sign of a health problem, it can have a variety of causes including underlying health issues. And if you're finding you're not sleeping that well at the moment – perhaps because of raised anxiety due to the coronavirus pandemic or just because the mornings are lighter – it will be an added annoyance you could do without.
Read on to find out how to identify the causes of snoring – for you or your partner – and what remedies you should consider.
Then, learn more about how to sleep better in our guide.
1. Identify the cause of snoring
If you're trying the same remedy for snoring (e.g. nasal strips) over and over again and it's not working, the underlying cause of your snoring is different from what you might think. While some people snore because of blocked nasal passages (for example, due to a deviated septum or sinusitis), others' snoring is genetic, or caused by lifestyle changes, or, in more severe cases, is due to a condition called sleep apnoea.
You'll need to do some mental detective work: are you recovering from an infection? Perhaps you've gained a bit of weight lately, or have been drinking more while in lockdown. Or did you dad and grandad both snore, which makes it more likely that your snoring is hereditary?
2. Snoring remedy that works #1: changing pillows
Whatever the cause of your snoring, the first thing to try is to change pillows. Pillows (find the best in our buyer's guide) come in a vast variety of materials, shapes, and lofts (how high the pillow is). Often finding the pillow that corrects your neck alignment and opens up your airways makes a dramatic difference, even if it won't eliminate the issue completely. In our experience, firm, supportive memory foam pillows are much better for snorers than soft down or overly bouncy synthetic ones.
3. Snoring remedy that works #2: maintaining a healthy lifestyle
Sometimes a couple of simple tweaks to your lifestyle can make snoring go away naturally. For example, snoring isn't always caused by putting on extra weight, but existing snoring is often made worse by it. An excess of fatty tissue around the neck or midriff compresses the upper airways, making snoring likely.
Find out how to lose weight in our guide.
Alcohol also can contribute to snoring, both directly by relaxing throat muscles, and indirectly by exacerbating weight gain. Not everyone snores after they drink, but if you're detecting a pattern of snoring on nights when you've been drinking, make sure you finish drinking at least three hours before bedtime. Or, even better, consult our guide to giving up alcohol.
4. Snoring remedy #3: sleeping on your side
Sleeping on you side makes you snore less, and that's a fact. Sleeping on your back is much more likely to result in constricted airways and snoring. Training yourself to sleep on your side is actually relatively easy, but you'll likely need a different pillow. If it's too flat, you'll probably keep rolling onto your back.
5. When to visit a health professional
If you're choking, breathing irregularly, or you stop breathing for several seconds at a time while sleeping, it's time to consult a doctor, as you might be suffering from sleep apnoea. It is a potentially serious health condition and should be treated by professionals.
6. I can't sleep because of my partner's snoring: what to do
A light sleeper and a snorer can make for difficult sleeping partners, as millions women and men will attest. If your partner snores, you may want to try earplugs, at least in the short term until the solution is found.
Not everyone can wear earplugs, however – some people find them uncomfortable or claustrophobic. If that's you, try going to bed at least half an hour before they do: if their snoring is relatively light, you may not hear it by the time you're sleeping deeply.
Finally, consider separate bedrooms. This may sound unappealing to loving couples, but there is plenty of research to indicate that sleeping apart makes for happier relationships.