Could this simple strategy stop snoring and sleep apnoea?

Have you ever started out looking for something on-line, got diverted, and then ended up at a completely unplanned and unrelated destination on the internet? I have to admit, for me, it happens a lot. It happened yesterday, in fact, when I was reading a piece about blood pressure treatment, and found myself clicking on an ad that took me here.

The site is selling what is essentially a strap that keeps the mouth closed during sleep. It is claimed to have the ability to stop snoring and sleep apnoea (see below). At first sight, it may look to many as a gimmick. The price also might seem steep. But before you reject this product, let me explain why I think it, and the idea behind it, at least deserve consideration.

lg_SnoreStrap Image

It’s believed that a major cause of snoring is when the soft palate at the back of the mouth blocks the entrance to the airways. This mostly happens when the mouth is open. If it’s bad enough, it may block the airways enough to stop breathing altogether for a few seconds or longer. This problem (sleep apnoea) is potentially a health hazard, and can cause people to wake feeling quite unrefreshed and even downright groggy, despite having slept for a good amount of time.

Even if someone does not snore, there’s a theoretical risk to breathing through an open mouth. This may increase the risk of ‘over-breathing’ (too much air going into and out of the lungs). The potential problem here is that it might cause carbon dioxide levels to drop to a lower level than is optimal. This can cause blood vessels to constrict but also means that less oxygen will be delivered to the tissues (if you’re interested in the physiology of this, look up ‘the Bohr effect’).

One reason for people breathing through their mouth, including at night, is a blocked nose. So, in the past, a lot of advice I have given about snoring has been geared to approaches to prevent nasal congestion. Eliminating or significantly cutting down on dairy products often helps (no, this is not an urban myth – I’ve found in practice that dairy is a quite common cause of nasal congestion, excess mucus and catarrh). Also, red wine quite commonly causes problems (apparently, it’s high in histamine, though the usually yeasty nature of this drink might not help either).

The thing is, though, even if someone’s nasal passages are beautifully clear, it is still possible for them to have their mouth drop open during sleep, particularly if they lie on their back. This, by the way, is the basis of an old remedy for snoring which involved sewing a tennis ball into the back of the sufferer’s pyjama jacket or nightdress. The idea is that lying on one’s back was made so uncomfortable that, even when asleep, the natural tendency would be to find another position.

Until today, the idea of dealing with snoring by doing something to keep the mouth shut did not occur to me. It probably should have, but it didn’t. And when I saw the ‘jaw supporter’ my instant reaction was not ‘what rubbish’ but ‘what a good idea and why didn’t I (or someone else) think of that soon?’

I have nothing to do with the company, haven’t trialled the product, and have no plans to either (I sleep with my mouth closed and don’t snore, I am reliably informed). However, my intuitive feeling about the product is that for people who snore and those with sleep apnoea, this product is in the ‘definitely worth a go’ category.

However, it also occurs to me that investing in this piece of kit may not be necessary at all. Ingenious and practical folks may want to fashion their own versions of the ‘jaw supporter’. Please send photos if you wish and feel free to share and personal snoring success stories below.

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37 Responses to Could this simple strategy stop snoring and sleep apnoea?

  1. Janknitz 31 May 2013 at 6:41 am #

    I have to say that I am more than a little shocked that you would endorse/suggest this product for sleep apnea, because you have equated the presence or absence of snoring with the diagnosis and treatment of a very serious condition. It’s quite possible to have severe sleep apnea and not snore or sleep with the mouth open at all, and some people snore without significant apnea. And I don’t see how that strap in any way can bring the jaw forward to open the airway–it looks quite effective at pushing the lower jaw back, occluding the airway even more.

    Even custom made dental devices which successfully reposition the jaw in a forward position to keep the airway open have a limited effectiveness for people with mild to moderate sleep apnea.

    Sleep apnea is extremely serious and woefully under-diagnosed. There are many causes to sleep apnea, sleeping with the mouth open is not generally accepted as one of them. Untreated apnea causes excessive cardiac strain, hypertension, and hormonal issues from stress hormones. It may be implicated in the leptin, ghrelin, and insulin pathways.

    The ONLY way to properly rule in/out and diagnose sleep apnea is with a polysomnogram which measures heart rate, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, and breathing patterns during sleep. Technology is advancing and there are some excellent home study devices so that an elaborate overnight lab study is not always required. And any treatment should be tested for effectiveness for that individual.

    Before I’d want to conclude that a chin strap prevents apnea, I’d want to be tested on psg. wearing it o make sure it works for ME. The hidden danger in this strap is that users may assume they don’t have apnea when using it, but that may not be the case. Delaying proper diagnosis and treatment (usually with CPAP) is dangerous. Apnea is a death of a thousand small insults to your brain and heart, and failure to get proper diagnosis and treatment is just as damaging as the long term hyperglycemia from poor diet that you, Dr. Briffa, have been so good about educating your readers about.

    I hope you will educate yourself mor about the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of sleep apnea and rethink this one.

  2. Yossi 31 May 2013 at 6:57 am #

    I have been using an anti-snoring mouthguard at night for four years and it works for me (and my partner).
    It advances the lower mandible very slightly and this enables me to breathe easily. It does make my mouth dryer than before and these devices are way more expensive than can be justified. I may give the strap a go as it would be less intrusive.

  3. Nadia 31 May 2013 at 7:15 am #

    I’m one of those people who snores when congested. I get hayfever which means that one or both of my sinuses will close completely at night. When this happens, I breathe through my mouth. I use anti-histamines, a neti pot (to flush my nose), anti histamine nasal sprays, nose dilators, air conditioning/filtration in the bedroom, you name it. I’m worried that if I used a thing like that to keep my mouth shut, I’d probably wake up because I was suffocating! lol I’ve been to an allergist and to the ENT clinic. With exception to an allergy against birch tree pollen, nothing was found wrong. I don’t eat a lot of cheese and I drink plain Koko milk instead of dairy milk. Although I do eat some dairy, it’s always full fat when I do. I did stop completely for about 6 weeks once but it made no difference. I don’t think I’m dairy intolerant. I rarely eat grains and don’t like sweet stuff particularly. I even eat about 1 tbsp of coconut oil most days (blended into black coffee) because I read that it helps with allergies. I never used to suffer from congestion,hayfever or snoring, but I have done for the last 5 years. I’ve learnt to live with it, but I know this is not normal. Needless to say, I wake up with a sore throat and I’m often tired, but I’ve run out of ideas…

  4. Anne Robertson 31 May 2013 at 7:17 am #

    My husband snored very loudly from childhood, and in his early forties, developed sleep apnoea which used to terrify me. But after cutting out grains and almost all sugar, the snoring virtually stopped and the sleep apnoea disappeared completely. He did not give up dairy, although we only use a little under a litre of milk per week between the two of us.

  5. Dr John Briffa 31 May 2013 at 7:40 am #

    Janknitz

    I don’t disagree with any of your suggestions about the proper diagnosis of sleep apnoea. But my post was not about diagnosis – it was about the idea of using the chin strap in its treatment, and the rationale for this.

    You claim the rationale is faulty. But actually there is some evidence to support the rationale, in the form of evidence which shows that when the mouth is open (as opposed to closed), the anatomy of the upper airways changes in a way that would increase the risk of obstruction [Lee SH, et al. How does open-mouth breathing influence upper airway anatomy? Laryngoscope. 2007;117(6):1102-6].

    I’ve found in medicine is that there’s usually gaps in the knowledge about any particular condition, and that sometimes very simple potential solutions are ignored or go unrecognised. The chin strap may be an example of that, and rejecting it purely on the basis of conventional ‘wisdom’ may impair understanding and progress. It might also end up denying people knowledge of something that might be very helpful in terms of improving their condition.

  6. Sally Dee 31 May 2013 at 8:27 am #

    I have suffered from allergies, nasal congestion and asthma for too many years. This chin strap is a version ( a much more sophisticated and technical version!) of the mouth tape I wear over my mouth at night to prevent me from mouth breathing. Although keeping the mouth shut this way doesn’t forcibly change the position of the jaw it does successfully keep my nose completely clear all night giving me an ‘easy’ nights sleep. Closing the mouth at night with a strip of tape is a ‘Buteyko’ breathing tip which I learned years ago and now i wouldn’t sleep without mouth tape. (quite a bit cheaper than the head gear too).

  7. Ann 31 May 2013 at 9:31 am #

    My dentist fixed my sleep apnoea years ago with a splint, which is like the mouth guards footballers use. It is meant to stop teeth clenching and grinding from tension that breaks cusps. He explained that it forced the muscles in the jaws to relax, and this stopped the apnoea. It certainly did so for me, although I also taught myself not to sleep on my back.

    Since I gave up carbs and lost a lot of weight, I can now sleep on my back. So it’s both things, I believe.

  8. Robert Park 31 May 2013 at 10:02 am #

    A number of years ago I suffered from apnoea symptoms and my late wife said that she would need to sleep in a different room if it could not be successfully treated. At the time I was reading about the benefits of a group of medications known as ‘smart-pills’ and discovered that Hydergine, a prescription drug for the early signs of senility, had other off-label benefits that were not generally known. On taking this product (half a tablet 2.25 mg) prior to retirement it cured the apnoea.

    Later, we had friends staying with us who had a 9 year old son with severe ADHD and he was very disruptive and destructive. Having read extensively about the wider benefits of Hydergine the boy’s parents were prepared to test it on their son. Amazingly, the boy’s behaviour became normal and his attention focused and he was a lovely lad. After 4 hours the drug’s benefits showed signs of becoming less effective and by the sixth hour the benefits had worn off.

    Twice I wrote to the pharmaceutical company about this benefit but was ignored. The parents, on returning to their doctor, he dismissed the suggestion that Hydergine had this beneficial effect and placed the boy, who was then highly intelligent, on Ritalin, and today, as a young man he is clearly below average intelligence; could this reduction in intelligence be the adverse effect of the long-term use of Ritalin?

    As sad tale indeed but an interesting and useful prescription pill which I continue to take and have done for 20 years without any adverse side effect.

  9. Nigel Kinbrum 31 May 2013 at 10:20 am #

    I have some large rubber bands in my kitchen draw, if anyone wants to try one to keep their mouth shut? Only £9.95, incl. P&P ;-)

    Lying on either side is good for my breathing, but I have to turn at regular intervals.
    Lying on my back results in obstruction to the nose when relaxed, even with my mouth closed.
    Lying on my front is good for my breathing, but usually results in a “dead” arm.

  10. Dr John Briffa 31 May 2013 at 10:24 am #

    Nigel

    You might be a candidate for the ‘tennis ball in the back of the pyjamas’ trick ;-)

  11. Christine 31 May 2013 at 11:43 am #

    My husband, who still has a deviated septum despite a corrective surgery years ago, is quite capable of snoring with his mouth closed, so even if I was to consider inflicting that cruel looking device on him (which I wouldn’t), it would be of no use.

    Once we realized that he was a “seasonal snorer”, we developed a couple of strategies that usually work. First line of defense is Tiger Balm on his chest, to open his airways. If that doesn’t work, he smears a tiny bit of (local) honey just inside his nostrils. Our reasoning is that although he doesn’t have allergies per se, his nasal passages are easily irritated by dust or pollen and the honey soothes any inflammation and reduces the slight swelling.

    Interestingly, he used to be prone to sinus infections but hasn’t had one since he started using honey in this way.

    If all else fails, we have a perfectly nice spare bedroom that I take myself to for the night.

  12. Bobby. dean 31 May 2013 at 2:40 pm #

    I have serious sleep apnea and stop breathing 17 times a minute.I have been grain free low carb for ten yrs.if I take my CPAP off in my sleep and don’t know I can awaken with a bloody scary panic attack. My breathing stops, I have to force myself to breathe, my pulse is so high I cannot count it and I have chest pain.The blowing of a small Amt of air at night keep my obstruction in my airway open and I am assured of a good nights sleep.I was severely sleep deprived for 9 yr and a gf said you have sleep apnea try my machine. It felt so safe and good as those chest pain attacks with racing heart cannot be good for the body. Now I stop breathing 1.4 times a minute which is average. For those of us with a serious issue I would get assessed.

  13. Edward 31 May 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    I have tried this product and found it to be complete ineffective. Furthermore, when I was congested I found it difficult to breath from my mouth and wanted to rip the thing from my head.

    Best thing I did was had a sleep study done. It was determined that I had positional sleep apnea. What was recommended was that I use something that would keep me sleeping on my side. Whenever I slept on my back I would have sleep apnea. So, as long as I stayed on my side I was ok.

  14. Nigel Kinbrum 31 May 2013 at 3:50 pm #

    Dr John Briffa 31 May 2013 at 10:24 am #
    “Nigel
    You might be a candidate for the ‘tennis ball in the back of the pyjamas’ trick ;-)
    I don’t wear pyjamas. Oh, whoops! TMI.

  15. jenny 31 May 2013 at 4:11 pm #

    I cut two small strips of duct tape, and place verticaly over my mouth, so cheap and easy, and it works, after reading advice from a book by Dr. Butenko on correct breathing, many tips in there, especially how to unblock your nose, works like magic. Think I would get too hot and irritated in that strap,

  16. Digby 31 May 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    I use this kind of strap, which works great for people with milf snoring, whose mouths drop open in sleep. If I don’t use it, i awake with sore throat, stuffiness, and sometimes a dull headache. I found mine at asmazon and it was inexpensive. I also use a simple mouth guard for TMJ.

  17. Jules 31 May 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    You can buy a reasonably priced version at http://www.sleeppro.com (along with mouth guards), but still not as competitive as Nigel’s version.😉

  18. James 1 June 2013 at 4:41 am #

    I’ve found that the angle of the neck also affects the airway. The correct size foam neck collar does the trick. They are sized based on the height at the front, and the circumference is adjustable. Also a dental splint from http://www.snorban.com I use them in conjunction and the results are good. Also try a xylitol nasal spray to help clear the sinuses.

  19. Bobby. dean 1 June 2013 at 5:41 am #

    Wonder how much of this is genetic. My 17 month old granddaughter only has 10% of her airway open due to thickened adenoids. She breathes like me at night? Are any of these interventions suitable for a child as they are talking surgery.

  20. jenny 1 June 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    Amendment to my previous post, wrong spelling, should have been Dr.Buteyko, got his book from the library, it solved my sinus problems ( not getting enough carbon dioxide due to open mouth at night) which my Doc. and the specialist at the hospital couldn’t figure out. Also good information youTube, including the breathing exercises, it seems we breath to much! I always believed you should take deep breaths…not so. After years of putting up with blocked nose, ringing stuffy head, I’m cured., but still taping mouth at night.

  21. Digby 1 June 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    @bobby.dean: My granddaughter also tended to snore, and had such enlarged tonsils and adenoids it interfered with her speech; and gave here excess saliva. Her pediatrician didn’t find this, rather her pediatric dentist. After surgery at age 5 to remove the tonsil she improved dramatically. No more snoring and speech corrected with some therapy. By age ten all normal.

  22. Mary 1 June 2013 at 7:20 pm #

    I am going to try one of those! Thanks.

  23. alex 1 June 2013 at 7:38 pm #

    I am worried that if using the headband when you have nasal congestion you might need to breathe with your mouth open if you become congested in your sleep. The alternate might be to suffocate??? Has anyone tried the band with a stuffy nose?

  24. alex 1 June 2013 at 7:57 pm #

    Or one could try chin up strips £16 99 for 30. Also good for nagging spouses as you can’t talk with them on!

  25. Kay Russell 2 June 2013 at 7:27 pm #

    Jenny’s duct tape is similar to my response, which is Micropore tape, perhaps a little kinder to the skin (as used in hospitals). It was used, successfully, to close the mouths of children overnight whilst treating them for asthma – Dr. Butyenko? (Book, lots of publicity some ten? years ago.)

    Kay

  26. Susan M. 2 June 2013 at 11:09 pm #

    The VA actually supplied my husband with something that looks like a wide piece of white colored and light weight type of Velcro that he wears before he puts on his cpap. It is designed to help keep his mouth closed while sleeping. It looks like it goes on his head about the same way as this item does.

  27. Duncan 4 June 2013 at 11:30 am #

    I am impressed by the several ladies who go to the spare room when husbands snore. In our house the rule is that the snorer has to move, not the snoree. Somehow it’s always me doing the snoring though and getting exited to the spare room.

  28. chloe 4 June 2013 at 7:54 pm #

    Quite the debate going on! Interesting stuff…

  29. Jilly 8 June 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    My husband found that sealing his mouth with a strip of microtape at night helped control his snoring and he thinks his sleep improved too.

    Alternatively, snorers should contact The British Society of Dental sleep Medicine. Their website is http://www.dentalsleepmed.org.uk.

  30. Daniel 14 June 2013 at 9:23 am #

    Interesting post because Sleep Apnoea is a serious subject. I am curious about the snoring “Strap”. Where exactly can i find it?

  31. Graeme 14 June 2013 at 9:20 pm #

    Can I just stick to my CPAP?

  32. Alison 19 September 2013 at 7:30 am #

    I’ve read some positive reviews of this jaw supporter but it seems to be an expensive option to stop snoring. The duct tape/Micropore solution is a much cheaper option that will probably work just as well. I’ve found the right pillow fixes my snoring.

  33. Ingrid Jaar 9 December 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    I would like to buy this jaw supporter… where can i get it?

  34. Jack Selber 13 April 2014 at 10:57 am #

    As a mouth breather with mild sleep apnea, I have been using Micrpore surgical tape ( made by 3M) for over a year. It completely stopped my snoring and helps my sleep apnea as much as the cpap machine I used to use.

  35. Taylor 2 July 2014 at 10:43 am #

    The main cause oof my snoring is a relaxing oof the tissue in my throat.
    Usually there is some type of blockage, such as swollen tissue, in one or more of the passages from
    the mouth or nose tto the lungs. The artificial light produced frokm cell phones, PDA’s and computers can inhibit the natural sleep-promoting hormone of seratonin from being produced iin the brain.

  36. Alan the Kiwi 22 July 2014 at 1:23 am #

    I’ve been using nose strips for 5 years now, but instead of putting it across my nostrils I place it vertically over my lips to keep my mouth closed. It’s the last thing I do as I fall asleep. It has been absolutely 100% effective at stopping my snoring, according to my wife. However, I’m fearful of recommending it to someone who may not be very fit and really need both their mouth and nose open to breathe at all.

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