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Snore-relief products (available without prescription)

If you find yourself walking (or being dragged) around the pharmacy, you’ll see a range of snore-relief products available without prescription.

A quick Google ↗ will show you many more. You might reasonably wonder:

Do they work?

I thought it was time to find out!

So, this independent review looks at typical snore-relief products found in your local pharmacy or online and is structured by self-targeted area (as in nose or throat) and then as below:

  1. Review of the product claims
  2. Empirical research: Do they stop snoring? (assessed by my wife’s ears)
  3. What the clinical evidence tells us
  4. My final verdict

I conclude with what else you can do about snoring.

In this review:

Simple theory of nasal breathing

Nasal snore relief products:

Throat snore relief products:

Adrian Zacher MBA

Adrian Zacher MBA

Author, Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Care Navigator

I teach UK dentists to help their patients stop snoring; sleep and breathe at the same time. Many of my customers find their work so rewarding they devote their practice to it. I’m a sleep-industry insider with a quarter of a century of sleep medicine experience.

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If you are looking for impartial advice about snoring from an expert in the field, the highly respected Adrian Zacher should be your go to. We applaud Adrian’s work, to raise awareness about the health implications of snoring, and the importance of prescription, custom-made devices for long-term success.

Lucie Ash Director Somnowell Snorer.com September 7, 2018

Good to know:

Snorer.com is independent. We don’t sell anti-snoring devices, chin straps or whatever! And we don’t benefit from affiliate deals.

The problem with ALL snore-relief products (available without prescription)

Without prescription
Click to find out what it is:
Ignoring the merits or otherwise of the products, the main problem with snore relief products available without prescription is that you’re GUESSING why you snore.

For your own health, it’s imperative that you’re assessed and screened for sleep apnoea before buying and ‘treating’ yourself with anything.

Your hasty purchase could:

  • Just waste your money
  • Cause you unnecessary pain (‘gumshields’ are the chief villain here)
  • Delay effective (and free on the NHS!) treatment that will prolong your healthy life

Consult your GP if you snore, and if you live in the UK, sleep-trained dentists can also:

  • Screen you and recognise Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) symptoms
  • Make custom anti-snoring devices for snorers, without a prior medical diagnosis
  • Or if they suspect OSA refer you on for further investigation

My advice is to get signposted to the most appropriate professional (it’s free!)

Nasal polyp

The simplified image above shows a nasal polyp. It’s in this review of over-the-counter products to illustrate why you should have a professional assessment. No amount of nasal spray is going to help here!

This tissue ‘lump’ reduces airflow in your nose. An ENT surgeon can quickly remove this (which in itself may not stop you snoring) but it will improve your ability to breathe through your nose (learn more about surgery for snoring). You may then no longer need to open your mouth to sleep and breathe at the same time (see simple theory of nasal breathing).

Simple theory of nasal breathing

Breathing through your nose, instead of your mouth is a good thing.

After all, that is what your nose is designed for.

Air you breathe in through your nose is moistened and dust is removed before it gets to your lungs. 

If however you simply can’t breathe through your nose, you must breathe through your mouth, and as you open your mouth the airway in your throat (behind your tongue) gets narrower, which may make you snore.

If you routinely cannot breathe through your nose, consult your GP. Some issues may be simply and quickly resolved with antihistamine tablets or sprays. Other issues, including sinusitis would be identified by your GP.

More here ↗ on the NHS website.

Nasal strip for snoring

Target area: Your nose

Magnetic nose ring gadget

Lately, I’ve seen an increase in search activity for a nose ring, snore-stopper gadget reputedly from Tibet (to add the air of mystery I must conclude) incorporating magnets.

Seriously? Complete this sentence:

“If it sounds too good to be true, __ __.”

I’m sure you can work it out.

Snore-relief strips (worn across your nose)

There are several different manufacturers of snore-relief strips to stick across your nose. You will look a bit like Adam Ant (Oh no, I am showing my age!)

You might have seen them worn by rugby players or perhaps racing drivers?

They are technically known as ‘external nasal dilators’.

How do snore-relief strips work?

The aim is to widen the airway in your nose and make it easier to breathe in.

Here’s a link to one manufacturer’s explanation (I do not endorse it).

https://www.breatheright.com/how-to-breathe-better/how-breathe-right-nasal-strips-work.html ↗

Review of their claims

These products commonly claim to :

Lift & open nasal passages to provide instant relief

Open your nose to improve airflow and help you get a more restful night’s sleep

If you have nasal congestion due to colds & allergies then consult your GP. While it is possible that this mechanical approach to nasal restriction may help temporarily, your GP may be able to resolve the issue of nasal congestion entirely.

Empirical research: Do they stop snoring?

Personally, they didn’t do a thing for me.

That said, I do not experience night time nasal congestion and while my nasal airway is perhaps not what it could be, my snoring comes from my throat.

What does the clinical evidence say?

There isn’t room here to look at all the clinical studies. And we don’t have to as it has been done for us!

Here are the pertinent extracts from a study titled “Nasal Dilators (Breathe Right Strips and NoZovent) for Snoring and OSA: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” (2016), in the journal Pulmonary Medicine. Accessed 14th June 2019. Available here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5187471/ ↗

(A ‘systematic review and meta-analysis’ means it’s a study that reviews other studies. The idea being that the sample size is larger and therefore the conclusions may be more reliable.)

The simple act of changing from the upright to the supine position has been shown to reduce upper airway volume by approximately 33% in OSA patients [10]. Given that the nasal cavity is upstream from the collapsible soft tissues of the upper airway, the nasal cavity directly influences the downstream airflow. Moreover, when the nasal cavity’s cross-sectional area increases by 10%, there is a corresponding 21% increase in nasal airflow [11].

Which means:

“Snoring demonstrated improvement when the overall raw data was combined, but there was only a small improvement when random effects modeling was applied. A subanalysis comparing external versus internal nasal dilators demonstrated that the external nasal dilators improved the snoring index minimally (−3.08), but the internal nasal dilators improved snoring more significantly (−86.54).”

Or to put it another way some small improvement in snoring was found for external nasal dilators, while internal nasal dilators worked a little better.

“Conclusion. Although nasal dilators have demonstrated improved nasal breathing, they have not shown improvement in obstructive sleep apnea outcomes, with the exception of mild improvement in apnea index when internal nasal dilators were used.”

Which means that if you have obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and are using an automatically adjusting positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy device, an internal nasal dilator might improve your nasal airway such that your pressure reduces slightly and your ability to tolerate PAP may improve.

My final verdict

This type of product may help if you experience collapse of your nostrils on breathing in (inhalation).

If you experience night time congestion or suffer from allergies that impact upon your ability to breathe freely at night, then consult your GP and seek a referral to ENT for a professional assessment.

Whether a nasal dilator stops your snoring depends upon what makes you snore.

If your snoring comes from your throat then, well it won’t do very much!

A final note: in time we may see internal nasal dilators launched as over-the-counter products. Early research looks promising – if your snoring emanates from your nose…

Snore-relief spray (up your nose)

Now lets’s have a look at snore-relief sprays you use up your nose (not to be confused with prescription steroid or anti-histamine sprays).

Nasal spray for snoring

Review of their claims

No objective evidence of the efficacy of over-the-counter nasal sprays for snoring has been found.

Of course, that’s not to say there is none, I’ve just not found any!

Happy to be corrected!

Empirical research: Do they stop snoring?

It made me blow my nose. Which is a good thing I guess. Anything that encourages nasal breathing is positive.

What does the clinical evidence say?

Some research7 has found that combining a nasal decongestant spray (that is the best I think we can hope for as benefit of this product) with sleep position change could help non-drowsy snorers.

My final verdict

I think you’re wasting your money.

Get signposted (it’s free) to the most appropriate professional (dental or medical) to help you with problem snoring.

Get signposted to the most appropriate professional to help you stop snoring
(hint: it’s free)
Get signposted to the right professional to stop snoring

Target area: Your throat

Snore-relief strip (again)

This type of snore-relief strip differs from the ‘plaster across your nose type’ by where you ‘stick’ it.

This time it’s to the roof of your mouth.

Review of their claims

They typically claim to ‘lubricate’ or ‘soothe’ your throat, and act directly upon the ‘source of the problem’ (which they conveniently omit to define).

Indeed, they’re very careful to avoid making specific claims. Conclude from that what you will!

What do they contain?

They don’t appear to contain any active ingredients and typically are sugar-free so at least they won’t rot your teeth… The inclusion of mint might make them taste nice.

But do they actually stop your snoring?

To answer that you either want to see:

  • Clinical evidence of effect. Some proof.
  • Or at a minimum some positive user reviews

Empirical research: Do they stop snoring?

Read the user reviews is about the best suggestion I can make.

Here’s what I found in Amazon UK’s category for ‘Insomnia and snore relief’:  (other online vendors are available) Amazon

What does the clinical evidence say?

It is possible that if the throat strips contain astringent herbs they could act like the throat sprays that reduce tissue swelling (for which I have found a manufacturer sponsored study3 reporting a significant reduction in snoring).

In April 2019, my colleague Emma emailed a manufacturer of one well-known brand and to date we’ve yet to receive a reply (it didn’t bounce).

Perhaps they’d like to comment below and let us know about their research? I’d certainly update this post accordingly.

My final verdict

There is some evidence they may tighten the tissue in your throat and this may reduce snoring.

The problem is (as I have said before) this is ‘treatment’ before knowing what you are trying to ‘treat’. Snoring may be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnoea.

I’ve said it before but I will say it again:

Get signposted to the most appropriate professional to help you (for free).

While they won’t hurt you and they may work, they are delaying you from obtaining evidence-based help.

Snore-relief spray

According to the Daily Mail a well known Over-the-Counter (OTC) snore-relief spray:

…creates a thin foam that settles on the back of the throat to reduce the vibrations caused when air passes over soft tissue…

The Daily Mail also quote Dr Neil Stanley (an independent sleep expert) as saying:

‘There is some evidence that sprays like this can reduce snoring in some people, as they stop the muscles relaxing so much. But if you have pauses in your breathing during sleep [ie, sleep apnoea], see your GP.’

Review of their claims

Loss of tissue tone contributes to snoring. Increasing tone is therefore a good thing.

If the product works for you then that’s great news.

Personally, I remain skeptical.

Empirical research: Do they stop snoring?

Well they taste nice.

My Mother always said “If you don’t have anything nice to say – then don’t say anything at all”!

What does the clinical evidence say?

This is interesting:

A manufacturer sponsored study4 found the essential oils in the throat spray may improve tissue tone and reduce snoring.

However, to balance the argument I have also found independent studies5, 6 disputing any subjective or objective reduction in snoring.

The fact is that this is ‘treatment’ before even a basic assessment has occurred.

Which is in my view backwards and wrong.

My view is that you need to work out why you snore before you jump to a treatment.

My final verdict

“You pays your money and takes your choice!”

Personally, I would save my money and get signposted to the most appropriate professional.

Work out why I snore and then what the most appropriate evidence-based treatment is to stop.

Summary

The evidence for non-prescription snore-relief products is, at best, inconclusive.

Regardless, their vendors make money by exploiting your desire for a quick-and-easy ‘fix’, which (in my opinion) is a myth.

The merit or otherwise of the various products is one thing, but how you come to get the product is the real issue.

You need to know why you snore

Only then can you do something about it.

Until you know why you snore, you’re just wasting your time and money. When you’re ready to get serious, get signposted to the most appropriate type of professional (it’s free).

In the meantime, perhaps consider these self-help ideas:

  • If you’re overweight, try to slim down
  • Quit the evening alcohol
  • If you smoke: stop
  • Don’t sleep on your back
  • Try to keep your nose clear (do dairy products make you stuffy?)
  • Avoid sedative medication (consult your GP if you need sleeping pills or pain meds) re alternatives

Let me know if you found this useful by typing a quick comment below.

It’s good to share.

User/Reader Reviews

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If you are looking for impartial advice about snoring from an expert in the field, the highly respected Adrian Zacher should be your go to. We applaud Adrian’s work, to raise awareness about the health implications of snoring, and the importance of prescription, custom-made devices for long-term success.

Lucie Ash Director Somnowell Snorer.com September 7, 2018

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References

  1. Nasal Dilators (Breathe Right Strips and NoZovent) for Snoring and OSA: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (2016), Journal Pulmonary Medicine. [Accessed 14th June 2019. Available here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5187471/ ↗
  2. Breatheright strips explanation. [Available here: https://www.breatheright.com/how-to-breathe-better/how-breathe-right-nasal-strips-work.html ↗ Accessed 9th July 2019.]
  3. Snoring and the evidence behind the various treatments available. Nathan, A.The Pharmaceutical Journal (Vol 274) 2005 pg 309-312 [available here: https://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/download?ac=1064920&firstPass=false ↗ accessed 8th July 2019]
  4. The Use of Essential Oils to Treat Snoring, Pritchard, A. PHYTOTHERAPY RESEARCH Phytother. Res. 18, 696–699 (2004) [Available here: http://dcscience.net/prichard-snoring.pdf ↗ accessed 8th July 2019]
  5. Study of lubricant-induced changes in chronic snorers, Wijewickrama RC1, Blalock D, Mims JW. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2004 Nov;131(5):606-9. [Available here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15523434 ↗ accessed 8th July 2019]
  6. Popular snore aids: do they work? Michaelson PG1, Mair EA. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2004 Jun;130(6):649-58. [Available here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15195048 ↗ accessed 8th July 2019]
  7. Effect of nasal spray, positional therapy, and the combination thereof in the asymptomatic snorer.
    Braver HM1, Block AJ. Sleep. 1994 Sep;17(6):516-21. [Available here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7528939 ↗ Accessed 8th July 2019]

Created by Adrian Zacher | Page last updated 23rd Oct 2019

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