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According to data collected by Johns Hopkins, an estimated 45% of adults snore occasionally and 25% regularly. (1) So rest assured that you’re not alone if you yourself snore or if your partner does, with you regularly waking up to the sound of snoring (which some liken to sawing logs!) in the middle of the night. Rest assured, though, that all hope is not lost. There are a variety of strategies and tools to get enough sleep — and a good night’s sleep — without resorting to separate rooms.
Research indicates (2) that for some, loud snoring may increase when in the supine position—that is, laying on your back with your face pointing up at the ceiling. These findings have led to the development of an intervention called positional therapy that helps chronic snorers—avoid supine sleeping with the help of several different devices: positional alarms, tennis balls, elevation pillows, lateral sleep pillows, vests, and neck-worn vibration systems. (3) Odds are your partner won’t need this level of support; have him/her simply try switching up sleeping positions on his/her own to see if that makes a difference.
In a 2015 meta-analysis, researchers examined the effect of listening to pre-recorded music for 25-60 minutes over a period of 3-5 weeks, concluding that “music may be effective for improving subjective sleep quality in adults with insomnia symptoms.” (4) Additionally, in a survey of over 500 patients suffering from sleep disorders, over 50% reported using music as a sleep aid—making it the most prevalent of all the integrative medicine approaches evaluated. (5)
A quick Google search will lead you to several calming sound recordings, some of which have audio signals embedded to help calm the mind, reduce stress and anxiety, improve focus, and support sleep.
An easy and quick solution to help you get a better night's sleep with a snoring partner is to pop in ear plugs. We recommend ones made with silicone, which tend to be noise-canceling. You can find them at most drugstores.
If you suspect that your partner’s snoring may be due to nasal stuffiness, try nasal strips, which have been found to reduce snoring (as reported in a clinical study by the bed partner) and alleviate mouth dryness (as reported by the patient). (6)
Sound machines and white noise machines—which drown out ambient noises, snoring included—are recommended to help reduce sleep onset latency (amount of time it takes to fall asleep), improve sleep quality, and decrease the frequency of awakenings. In fact, one study (7) found that broadband sound administration reduced sleep onset latency by 38% compared to normal environmental noise, suggesting that it might be a helpful way to minimize insomnia symptoms and improve overall health.
Although drinking alcohol in the evening can be relaxing, it may have adverse sleep effects if consumed too close to bedtime (within 3-4 hours), including fragmented and non-refreshing sleep, delayed onset of REM sleep (the dream stage), more frequent bathroom breaks, and increased snoring. (8)
READ MORE: The 15 Best + Worst Foods For Your Sleep
S/he may be suffering from apnea, a sleep disorder marked by temporary pauses in breathing throughout the night. Unlike the less common Central Sleep Apnea, which occurs when the brain fails to send correct signals to the muscles in charge of breathing, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) occurs when throat muscles relax (or your airway is reduced), partially or completely blocking the airway and leading to snoring (that’s often loud enough to be heard from the hallway outside your bedroom with the door closed) or gasping for breath. A major risk factor for OSA is obesity; however, it’s also particularly common among menopausal women—studies indicate that about 20% develop some form of the condition. (9)
Apnea exists on a spectrum, meaning it doesn’t manifest the same way for everyone. Some experience mild, general snoring due to upper airflow resistance that doesn’t affect blood oxygen levels while others have more severe cases in which blood oxygen levels drop. Known as hypoxemia, this stresses out the entire body and can contribute to hypertension, stroke risk, cardiovascular disease, etc.
What makes OSA so tricky is that many people don’t know they have it—for some, the only symptom is unexplained daytime sleepiness or needing more hours of sleep than usual to feel rested, while others may experience sleep disruptions due to snoring or a feeling of gasping for air.
How OSA is diagnosed:
Your healthcare provider or sleep medicine specialist will recommend you enroll in an overnight sleep study known as a polysomnography (or PSG), in which several EEG sensors are placed on the head to identify brainwaves and differentiate when you’re awake or asleep (and in what stage). There are other sensors that also track breathing, snoring, limb movement, and heart rate across the night in order to screen for and diagnose other conditions such as narcolepsy. (10) Your sleep specialist may then recommend an oral appliance made specifically for the treatment of OSA or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine, also known as a CPAP machine.
It's also possible to conduct a home study outside of a sleep center. This involves fewer sensors and does not require an EEG to measure brainwave activity.