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How to Avoid Snoring on a Plane

Surgery, Allergy Treatment, and Nasal Strips May Help

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Updated June 04, 2013

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How to Avoid Snoring on a Plane
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It's surprisingly probably one of the more common fears associated with flying: embarrassing yourself by falling asleep on the plane and snoring loudly enough to disturb those around you. How can you avoid snoring on a plane? Learn a few simple steps that might help you to avoid potential embarrassment.

What Causes Snoring?

Snoring is due to the vibration of the tissue along the airway, extending from the tip of the nose to the lungs. More commonly, this occurs when the soft palate vibrates during inhalation. It may come from the nose, however, and it may also occur during exhalation. When the airway becomes further obstructed, sleep apnea may occur. This may cause you to awake with a snort or gasp and lead to other consequences.

Snoring may be particularly embarrassing on a flight. Both men and women may feel self-conscious. Sitting among strangers may introduce a degree of social phobia, a fear about how it may be viewed by others or lead to judgment. Although snoring may be due to your anatomy, there are a few things that can be done about this.

Interventions That Improve Snoring

There are a few treatments and interventions that can improve snoring. If the midline structure of your nose, called the nasal septum, is pushed to one side, this may lead to additional snoring. Surgical correction, called septoplasty, may fix the deviated nasal septum and reduce snoring. In addition, tissue filters called nasal turbinates may also obstruct the nose. These turbinates are often enlarged in association with untreated allergies. The tissue can be removed with a procedure called radiofrequency ablation that melts them away. Soft palate surgeries may remove or tighten up these tissues and minimize vibration.

Last-Minute Treatment Options

If you are packing your bags for your trip, it may be too late to consider surgical treatment for snoring. Moreover, other treatments such as weight loss will have to be put aside. Don’t give up hope: you can still reduce your chance of snoring.

Allergy treatment with saline spray, a Neti pot, or nasal steroid sprays can reduce nasal congestion and improve snoring. In addition, nasal dilators such as Breathe Right nasal strips may open up your nose and provide relief. These strips are fairly discreet, and may be somewhat helpful. There are other devices such as Provent and Theravent that have also been designed to improve snoring. Snoring may also be helped with an oral appliance.

If you're sitting upright on the flight, even when reclining at a modest angle, you will be aided by gravity in reducing your snoring. The tongue often falls back and blocks the airway, but this is less likely to occur if you are sitting up. Therefore, even your position may reduce your chance of snoring.

A surefire way to avoid snoring is to minimize your use of alcohol. Alcohol and other medications that relax the airway muscles (such as benzodiazepines) may lead to increased snoring. Therefore, if you are concerned about snoring, put these aside for your flight.

Finally, if you are really self-conscious about snoring on the plane, you may wish to simply stay awake for the duration of the trip.

There is really no reason to feel self-conscious about snoring, however. It is an extremely common condition, affecting men and women of all ages. Even if you snore loudly, it is likely to be largely drowned out by the roar of the jet engines. So sit back, relax, and don’t let the fear of snoring prevent you from resting a little on your next flight.

Kryger, MH et al. "Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine." Elsevier, 5th edition.

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