Nasal strips are stiff pieces of fabric that wrap around the nose and stick to the outside of the nostrils. They widen nostrils and make it easier for air to flow through the nose. Some sleepers snore less while wearing nasal strips, but research into nasal strip effectiveness has been inconsistent.
We cover how to use nasal strips, if nasal strips work, potential side effects, and alternative treatment options to stop snoring.
Nasal Strips For Snoring
Narrowed or blocked nostrils may lead to resistance to airflow through the nose, which in turn can cause snoring. Nasal strips hold the nostrils open using small springs embedded in the strips that stick to either side of the nose. This widening of the nostrils can reverse or reduce resistance and increase airflow.
When a nasal strip is in the right position, it should gently pull outward on both nostrils. Nasal strips are available in different sizes and strengths, so if a strip feels too long or too short, then a person may consider trying a different size. If the nasal strip irritates the skin or is not as effective as the person using it would like, then they may try a different strength strip or one made with a different material.
“Before considering a trial of nasal strips, a snorer needs to be screened for obstructive sleep apnea. That doesn’t always mean getting a sleep study, you can start with a simple questionnaire and always consult with your healthcare provider. If there is no concern for OSA, then by all means see if those strips get your snoring under control.”
Dr. David Rosen, Sleep Physician
Do Breathe Right Strips Work?
Several studies have found that Breathe Right strips and other similar nasal strips reduce snoring and improve sleep quality. However, most studies on nasal strips have been small, and their results have been conflicting.
Most studies of nasal strips for snoring have measured participants’ or their partners’ opinions of the frequency and severity of their snoring. In these studies, both people using nasal strips and their partners consistently report that they snore less often and less intensely while using nasal strips. However, when researchers measured snoring during a sleep study, they did not find any difference in the amount of snoring with or without nasal strips .
Side Effects of Nasal Strips
Most people who use nasal strips experience no or only mild side effects. Possible side effects from nasal strips include skin irritation, redness, or itching beneath the strip, mild discomfort, and feeling a need to sneeze.
Alternatives to Nasal Strips
People who dislike or are dissatisfied by nasal strips may try alternative treatments to stop snoring. Before starting treatment, people who snore should talk to a doctor, in case they have the sleep disorder sleep apnea. Nasal strips are not an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. However, several options are available for people who snore but do not have sleep apnea, ranging from lifestyle changes to oral appliances.
A doctor may recommend lifestyle changes as a first step to try to stop snoring:
- Sleep on one’s side instead of on one’s back
- Raise the head of the bed or sleep on a wedge pillow
- Avoid smoking and alcohol, especially before bedtime
- Lose weight, if overweight or obese
These changes may not help everyone, but they are relatively low-risk and may have other health benefits.
If snoring is caused by chronic congestion, allergies, or a short-term infection, then treating the cause may reduce snoring. Short-term use of a nasal decongestant or nasal saline spray may help people with short-term sinusitis, but it should not be used for more than a few days. Doctors may prescribe a steroid nasal spray for people with long-term congestion. Antihistamine pills may help people with allergies.
Mouth and Throat Exercises
Mouth exercises to strengthen the tongue and soft palate may help reduce snoring. Few studies have been conducted to study the effectiveness of these exercises. However, data suggests that performing these exercises for 8 to 30 minutes a day for at least three months may reduce the frequency and intensity of snoring.
Internal Nasal Dilators
Internal nasal dilators are small devices placed inside the nostrils that hold the nostrils open. Studies suggest that internal nasal dilators may reduce snoring similarly to nasal strips, but lead to comparatively higher airflow and better sleep quality.
People who continue to snore after trying other measures may benefit from an oral appliance. These devices are worn only during sleep and keep the airway open either by pulling the jaw forward or using suction to keep the tongue in the front of the mouth. Studies have found that oral appliances reduce both the frequency and severity of snoring. Oral appliances are customized to the user’s mouth, and are prescribed by trained dentists.
People may notice initial discomfort, difficulty chewing, or an increase in either drooling or dry mouth soon after starting to wear oral appliances. Most of these side effects go away over time. However, some people may get misaligned teeth after long-term use of oral appliances .