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Really want to stop snoring? Try these steps first

Ask your doctor how to stop snoring, and he or she will probably tell you this:

  • Stop smoking -- and avoid secondhand smoke. When you breathe cigarette smoke, your nose and throat lining get irritated, swell up -- which leads to snoring. "The likelihood of snoring increases as more cigarettes are smoked per day because the congestion increases with each cigarette," says the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association. Children of smokers are more likely to snore than their peers, too. If you don't want to quit, even avoiding smoking for four hours before bedtime can help, the association says.
  • Lose weight. "If you gain weight around your neck, it squeezes the internal diameter of the throat, making it more likely to collapse during sleep, triggering snoring," otolaryngologist and snoring expert Daniel Slaughter tells WebMD.com.
  • Quit drinking near bedtime. Alcohol relaxes the muscles of your throat and tongue, so they can flap around and create snoring. Abstaining is the only strategy that works for Rory Clements at the Daily Mail (U.K.), after trying 10 over-the-counter and home snoring remedies. "You're supposed to abstain from wine for at least four hours before bed. I normally retire around midnight, so I can't drink after 8 p.m. But I don't usually have my first drink UNTIL 8 p.m., so that means no drinking at all today. The result? An excellent night's sleep and no snoring."
  • Sleep on your side. When you sleep on your back, your tongue can fall back into your throat and make you snore. If you tend to roll onto your back no matter what, doctors usually recommend sewing a tennis ball into the back of your pajama top.

Doctors say these should be your first stop-snoring steps. They're far more likely to work than anything you can buy over the counter, and they don't cost a dime. You can buy special stop-snoring pillows, but top sleep experts don't recommend them -- although a full-body pillow can help you stay on your side while you sleep, Slaughter says.

Slate.com's Chip Brantley doesn't usually wear a pajama top -- and he doesn't sew -- but safety-pinning a sock with a tennis ball in it to the back of a T-shirt is the only snoring remedy that finally gives him (and his wife) some peace at night.

"When you sleep in this T-shirt, it's painful to sleep on your back, so you turn on your side, where you're less likely to snore," Brantley explains. "If you sleep with the sock enough, your sleep self will supposedly associate sleeping on your back with pain, and you won't need the T-shirt anymore.

"The remedy worked immediately. The morning after the first night, Elizabeth reported no snoring. I felt great, too. The second night, my deceitful sleep self did manage to outmaneuver the sock, swinging the tennis ball between my arm and side, allowing me to sleep on my back and snore. But the next day I adjusted the sock so that it was tighter against the shirt and could not be stretched out." Result? Zero snoring.

One more natural remedy -- playing the didgeridoo -- sounds a little kooky, but it actually shows some promise in early tests. People who play the didgeridoo (a wind instrument invented by Aboriginal Australians) for 25 minutes per day "experienced less daytime sleepiness -- a complication of sleep apnea and snoring" in a study reported by WebMD.com.

It probably works by strengthening the airway muscles, and so does singing: Snorers who sang prescribed singing exercises for 20 minutes per day snored less after three months in one study, WebMD.com reports. In a Which? magazine test, practicing with a "Singing for Snorers" CD (Est. $75) "provided some relief," BBC News reports, although both sources say this strategy needs more research to confirm whether it really works.

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