Alternative Snoring Remedies: Quirky Cure or Quackery?

If you snore and have ever Googled how to stop snoring, it is likely that you know the standard snoring remedies. Most people are familiar with weight loss, nasal strips, mouthpieces or throat sprays. But what about pineapples? Electric shocks? Didgeridoos?

The internet is a big place full of lots of good stuff but also lots of nonsense. Before you accept an online post on the greatest new snoring cure as gospel, we’ve highlighted a few of the weirder ones. Are they quirky cures that could work wonders, or is it just a load of quackery?

Didgeridoo – quirky cure

It’s true – learning to play the didgeridoo or any wind instrument for that matter can really help you to snore less!

Snoring arises from weak upper airway musculature – tissue in the airway vibrates because it is slack and floppy. Playing wind instruments tones these upper airway muscles making them less likely to vibrate and make noise.

The science behind this novel technique is very positive. Twenty-five patients with moderate obstructive sleep apnea were signed up for didgeridoo lessons. Fourteen received tuition and did practice at home every day for four months. The other eleven – the control group – were put on a waiting list and carried on as normal.

Playing the didgeridoo is hard and requires strong mouth, tongue and throat muscles. At the end of the four months, the group who played the instrument showed some promising results improvements to their snoring [1]:

  • They were less sleepy throughout the day.
  • Their sleep apnea episodes reduced. Patients had a lower apnea/hypopnea index – 6.2 points fewer than the control group.
  • Their partners reported feeling less disturbed at night.

You needn’t sign up for (potentially expensive) music lessons to tone your airway muscles. Research has shown that doing some simple daily mouth exercises can have great benefits – reducing snoring, improving sleep apnea and giving you (and your bed partner) better sleep [2][3][4].

You can read more about these exercises and how they can help you in our dedicated article: Mouth Exercises for Snoring.

Pineapple plant – quackery

If this one seems far-fetched and wacky, that’s because it is. Pineapple plants in your bedroom will not help your snoring.

This campaign of misinformation started in 2017 when British supermarket chain Asda started selling pineapple plants with the bold claim that they’ll cure your snoring. They also said that the science is backed up by NASA.

The British tabloids and many less-than-reputable online sources jumped on this spikey bandwagon and started extolling the virtues of pineapple plants for snoring. The common theme in these articles was that pineapple plants give you more oxygen at night therefore you snore less and that NASA said so.

Where do we start with the problems in this story?

Okay, so it is true that pineapple plants are different to your ordinary houseplant. “Normal” plants photosynthesise during the day and respire at night. This means that during the day plants are taking in CO2 and giving out oxygen, whereas at night they are taking in oxygen and giving out CO2.

Pineapple plants employ CAM photosynthesis (crassulacean acid metabolism for those who are interested) and therefore do the opposite, giving out oxygen at night.

However, more oxygen is not going to make you snore less, nor is it going to improve sleep apnea. Contrary to what some say, CPAP – the gold standard treatment for sleep apnea – does not give you more oxygen. It simply gives you normal air. Further, even if oxygen were to improve snoring outcomes, the amount required would not be met by the meagre output from a single £10 houseplant.

But what about NASA? They’re reputable, right? In the 1980s, NASA did some studies into whether or not “interior landscape plants” could be used to mop up toxic molecules from the air [5]. The results were that, yes, to an extent they could (but far too many plants would be needed to have any noticeable benefit). Clearly not mentioned in this study (we checked) are pineapple plants.

So where did the “NASA-backed science” claim come from? Really, it seems to have been plucked from the thin air of space.

Tennis ball – quirky cure

tennis ball on white background

Those who have done a bit more research into snoring cures may be familiar with this remedy. Taping a tennis ball to your back at night is a great way of stopping you from sleeping on your back – a position where you are much more likely to snore.

There is lots of research into snoring, sleep apnea and your sleeping position. More than half of sleep apnea cases are referred to as “position-induced”. Sleeping on your back makes you far more likely to snore or experience sleep apnea. Here, your jaw recedes, your tongue falls back, and weight on your neck compresses your upper airway. All of these disturb airflow and cause vibration or complete blockage.

Purposefully obstructing back-sleeping is not a new snoring cure. Soldiers in the American War of Independence and in the First World War were sometimes ordered to sleep with their rucksacks on. This was to prevent them from snoring and giving away their position to their enemies.

Today, “tennis ball therapy” or TBT (it has actually been giving its own acronym in scientific journals) is a popular “alternative” snoring treatment [6]. This is because side sleeping can improve snoring outcomes hugely.

The tennis ball is the most famous but isn’t a requirement for promoting side-sleeping. Anything that impedes back-sleeping can help. There are even dedicated sleeping backpacks you can wear at night which are a little more comfortable and also provide some support.

Shock bracelets – quackery

Once you’ve been awoken by a minor electric shock, it is indeed true that you aren’t snoring anymore. However, you also aren’t sleeping. This is not reason enough to suggest that shock bracelets are a sensible anti-snoring measure.

The idea of shock bracelets is to condition you out of bad habits. This is all very well if the habit is consciously controlled – which snoring is not. Some argue that snoring is a voluntary habit [7] but this misses a crucial middle step – our voluntary lifestyle choices impact upon the involuntary action of snoring. Simply put, you can’t just “learn” to stop snoring with negative reinforcement as this is not tackling the root cause of the snoring itself.

You can read more on the topic of snore alarms in our article: Do Snore Alarms Work?

A note on “alternative medicine”

Notable omissions from our “quackery” classification are acupressure rings and things with magnets. There are a lot of these “alternative medicine” products on the anti-snoring market – some snorers swear by them, others swear at them in online reviews.

These two reviews for exactly the same product illustrate how polarised opinion is on alternative medicine remedies

This is a divisive topic, and whilst we don’t explicitly recommend them we’ll stop short of calling these quack cures.

Yes, the evidence (conventionally speaking) is lacking and most users will see no improvement whatsoever, but it is undeniable that there are some people who benefit from these alternative snoring cures.

We don’t know why these remedies work for some people; some as-of-yet-undiscovered physiological process, or maybe just a placebo? Uncertainty of the mechanism doesn’t mean that it should be dismissed entirely.

Getting philosophical, it could perhaps be that we simply don’t have the scientific tools or knowledge to understand or measure what these remedies can do for some of people. It is naïve to think that modern knowledge and science is the endgame in our understanding. After all, before the advent of the telescope (and even some time after) it was the conventional wisdom amongst the best scientific minds that the sun revolved around the earth.

One thing that is undeniable however is the statistics. Many more people will benefit from the conventional anti-snoring approaches. If you snore and are looking for a cure, maybe try weight loss and side sleeping before shoving a magnet up your nose.

Have you had a positive experience with an alternative snoring cure? We’d love to hear from you! You can contact us on Facebook, Twitter or support@snorelab.com

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References

  1. Puhan MA, et al. Didgeridoo playing as an alternative treatment for obstructive sleep apnea syndrome: randomized controlled trial. British Medical Journal 2006; 332(7536): 266-270. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1360393/
  2. Guimaraes KC, et al. Effects of Oropharyngeal Exercises on Patients with Moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine 2009; 179(10): 962-966. https://doi.org/10.1164/rccm.200806-981OC
  3. Ieto V, et al. Effects of Oropharyngeal Exercises on Snoring. Chest 2015; 148(3): 683-691. https://doi.org/10.1378/chest.14-2953
  4. Nemati S, et al. The effects of oropharyngeal-lingual exercises in patients with primary snoring. European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology2015; 272(4): 1027-1031. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00405-014-3382-y
  5. Wolverton BC, et al. Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement. NASA 1989. Accessed: 31/07/2019. https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19930073077.pdf
  6. Eijsvogel MM, et al. Sleep position trainer versus tennis ball technique in positional obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine 2015; 11(2): 139-147. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25515276
  7. Dilkes M and Adams A. Stop snoring the easy way and the real reasons you need to. Hachette UK 2017.

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