"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.