So I have this friend who snores like a psychopath. Enough that people bitch about it from neighboring rooms. Enough that his wife is basically scouting quieter replacement husbands. Enough that his son jokes that he sounds like elephant giving birth inside a metal garbage can.
But this friend, see, he knows that it’s hard to make lifestyle adjustments while unconscious. He also sleeps pretty well, so he wouldn’t even worry about it, if not for the complaints from people he likes. So this friend, while awake, went to the source: a PhD named Michael Breus, who happens to be a fellow at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Snoring is all about the airway,” Breus told my friend. “It’s turbulence. It’s like when you stick your thumb over a hose in the garden and water shoots out faster. When any part of the breathing passage becomes more narrow—your sinuses, trachea, any floppy tissue—you’ll snore.” Here’s how my friend learned to calm that turbulence down:
1. Rule out obstructive sleep apnea.
This should always be your first step, according to doctor Raj Dasgupta, one of Breus’s AASM colleagues. Obstructive sleep apnea is tied to heart problems, stroke risk, and increased chance of driving directly into a construction vehicle. Just because you snore doesn’t mean you have sleep apnea, but if you do, the treatment is more involved.
2. Sleep on your side.
Air turbulence is generally the fault of the soft tissue in the roof of your mouth, uvula (the flappy droopy thing), and pharynx (the back of your throat). If you sleep on your back, gravity pulls all these things south. Side sleepers have a better chance of avoiding this problem. To train yourself sideways, pick up something called a wedge pillow. There are also shirts with tennis balls on the backs, to make rolling that way super-uncomfortable.
3. Drop 5% of your body weight.
Breus says that much weight loss can drop your nose-volume by 25 to 45 decibels. This is because neck circumference is associated with snoring. Normal levels are around 17″ for a male, and 16″ for a female, according to the National Association for People Who Study Neck Circumferences.
4. Drink less.
Alcohol, as you have likely noticed, relaxes your muscles—including those in your airways. And drinking is poor sleep hygiene to begin with. Stop drinking two hours before bed, at least.
5. Crash on time.
Snoring doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not sleeping well, but sleeping poorly will promote snoring. Regulate your cycle by establishing a consistent bedtime and wake time. (iOS 10 has an app that can help with this, if you can spare the 30 minutes required to fucking open it.)
6. Free your nasal passages.
Especially if you’re sacked with seasonal allergies. Take a pre-bed hot shower, for the steam. Squirt in some saline. (This is also achievable through a device called a ” neti pot,” which is a traditional Chinese phrase meaning “fire water into your nose twice a week.” “It’s a very odd experience,” says Breus, underselling it, “but it irrigates things.”) You can also try nasal steroids like Flonase and Nasonex, but be aware they take 7 to 10 days to take effect.