Can a Sleep Aid Stop Snoring? The Truth About Over-the-Counter Product Claims

Snoring can disrupt your bed partner and might put you at risk for sleep apnea.
Don't take your (or your partner's) buzz saw lightly: Heavy snoring disrupts sleep and can even signal a more serious health condition. You may be tempted to try an over-the-counter snoring aid—but before you do, there are several factors to consider.

Rule out sleep apnea first
By treating yourself without consulting a doctor, you may be overlooking a dangerous health condition. If you have moderate to severe sleep apnea—in which a person's airway becomes obstructed while they sleep, causing them to snore, stop breathing, and gasp for air while sleeping—you may need a prescription medical device or surgery to fix the problem.

Don't expect a miracle
From nasal strips and sprays to acupressure finger rings, there are more than 300 patents for snoring aids in existence. Products that target specific causes of snoring, such as nasal congestion or sleeping on your back, may help if you can target the reason for your own case, says David Rapoport, MD, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at New York University.

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"It's really about individual preference," says Dr. Rapoport. "What works for one person may not work for the next. But overall don't expect huge results: Very little research has been conducted on these products."

One 2003 study tested a lubricating mouth spray (Snorenz), nasal dilator strips (Breathe Right), and an ergonomically shaped pillow (Snore-No-More), all marketed to stop snoring. Over several nights, 37 men and women slept with each of the three products, while researchers from Wilford Hall United States Air Force Medical Center in San Antonio took measurements on snoring parameters.

None of the participants had significant improvement from the previous night, without snoring aids. The study casts doubt on unregulated over-the-counter products, although manufacturers argue that they may take more than one night to become effective.

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Last Updated: April 14, 2008

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