A head-to-head comparison of three of the most popular over-the-counter snoring treatments shows none of the products had any significant effect in easing snoring compared with using nothing at all.
"These easily available, popular commercial snoring aids don't work," says researcher Peter Michaelson, MD, an ear, nose, and throat surgeon at Wilford Hall United States Air Force Medical Center in San Antonio.
Michaelson says previous studies of nonprescription snoring aids have only measured the subjective effects of the various products by asking how users or their spouses felt they worked. But this study used objective measurements from an at-home sleep monitoring device to compare the effectiveness of the snoring aids as well as subjective measurements.
The snoring aids tested included a lubricating mouth spray (Snorenz), nasal dilator strips (Breathe Right Strips), and an ergonomically shaped pillow (Snore-No-More).
Snoring Aids Put to the Test
In the study, 37 men and women who complained of snoring that disturbed them and their sleeping partner used each of the devices for one night, followed by a night of sleeping without the use of any snoring treatment.
Of the three products tested, only the nasal strips indicated that the product should be used for six consecutive nights to achieve results. But with the design of the study and the average consumer in mind, Michaelson said he decided to test each product for one night only.
Researchers found no significant improvements in four objective snoring measurements, such as proportion of total snoring originating from the soft palate -- where most snoring originates -- and snoring loudness.
The results of the study will be presented next week at the American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery Annual Meeting in Orlando.
Michaelson says that without being evaluated by a medical professional, it's impossible for people to know what the source of their snoring is, and it's the source of the snoring that should determine the course of treatment.
"About 80% of snoring comes from soft palate [back of the mouth], but the consumer doesn't always know where their snoring is coming from," Michaelson tells WebMD. "Certain devices might have a greater impact based on the location of the snoring."
For example, snoring that is caused by nasal congestion might be relieved by a product that reduces nasal congestion and improves airflow in the nose. But these products aren't likely to help other types of snoring.
In fact, Andy Anderson, VP of regulatory affairs at CNS Inc., which produces Breathe Right strips, says their product is designed to reduce snoring by alleviating nighttime nasal congestion. But it may take time to get results.
"One thing that comes out most clearly on this, and what we have found in our studies, is that it really does take consecutive nights of use of the strips [to provide relief]," says Anderson.
He says the strips work by mechanically opening the nasal passages, which allows people to relearn how to close their mouths at night.
Snoring's More Than Just Noise
But experts say the bigger issue is that snoring is more than just noise and can often be a sign of a more serious sleep disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea or breathing interruptions during sleep. Sleep apnea is often associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
"If patients simply self-treat themselves with these products, they may be getting a false sense of security and actually be doing more harm than good," says Alon Y. Avidan, MD, MPH, director of the Sleep Disorders Clinic at the University of Michigan Medical Center.
"The point is that people need to look at these products carefully. In some patients, these products may be appropriate, but they should always consult their family practitioner or primary care provider to be evaluated," says Avidan. "When we hear about snoring and sleepiness, we tend to worry that the patient may have much more than just snoring. They may not be aware that they have sleep apnea, and untreated sleep apnea can have devastating medical consequences."
Michaelson agrees and says there are more than 300 patents for snoring aids that are not currently regulated by the FDA. He says this is only the first study to compare these commercial snoring treatments and that more study is needed to evaluate the effectiveness as well as safety of these snoring treatments.