Antihistamines and Snoring: Do They Help?

antihistamines desvenlafaxineWhen it comes to a loud, intrusive and partner-waking (or self-waking) snore problem, people will try anything. And we don’t blame them – we’ve been there.

But one trend we’ve been seeing is concerning, and that is the use of antihistamines to treat snoring.

Please be aware that the following piece was not written by a physician. We advise you to see your doctor before taking any medication for your snoring or before stopping current medications.

Why Snorers Turn to Antihistamines

Let’s begin by pointing out that it’s not as if the use of antihistamines for snoring-related issues is anything new or controversial.  Under certain conditions, antihistamines may be able to help with snoring.

If you’ve ever had a cold or the flu and were so stopped up you couldn’t sleep, you know how this works: you lie in bed gasping for air, take medication to reduce the inflammation (antihistamines block histamine receptors and reduce swelling) and are able to breathe easier – and finally get some sleep.

In fact, your doctor may have recommended this route in the past if you were experiencing a temporary inflammation issue – such as the above mentioned cold – or if you’re a chronic allergy sufferer.

Because of these common uses for antihistamines, when researching snoring solutions, the snorer is likely to come across any number of individuals for whom antihistamines have worked, and are willing to try the strategy. But is this route the right one for every snorer?

…and Why There’s No Guarantee They’ll Work for You

Antihistamine overuse can produce a drowsy "hangover" effect.

Antihistamine overuse can produce a drowsy “hangover” effect.

The problem is that not all snoring issues are caused by inflammation or a histamine response.

If, for example, excess weight, your sleep position, or over-relaxation of the mouth and throat muscles during sleep are your problem, antihistamines won’t do anything to combat those issues.

In some situations, using this class of medications may even make things worse. The largest problem here is twofold: antihistamines tend to dry things out in the body, and they produce over-relaxation. Dryness can make snoring worse, not better, and can cause irritation in the mouth or throat that wasn’t there in the first place. And the over-relaxation response can make muscles even more lax, contributing to more, and worse, snoring.

The backlash the next day can be an issue as well: antihistamines are notorious not only for causing drowsiness but for something of a “hangover” or “jet lag” effect in the morning, making your day less productive and in some situations (driving, for example), even dangerous.

So What’s the Solution?

When it comes to snoring, there’s no one answer for everyone. But here are the steps we recommend:

1. See your doctor. There may be an underlying issue or condition.

2. Change your sleep position. On your back is the worst position for snoring. Stomach-sleeping isn’t ideal either. Try to train yourself to sleep on your side. Using a body pillow to position yourself can help with this.

3. Make sure your pillow aligns your neck and head. If your neck kinks from a too-soft or too-thick pillow, breathing will be obstructed during the night and could contribute to snoring.

4. Ask your partner how often s/he notices you snoring. Ask whether your snoring is waking him/her up. If the answer is yes, or if you yourself are waking due to snoring or a cessation of breathing, report this to your doctor.

5. Keep your room from being too dry. Invest in a humidifier if necessary.

6. Keep your room on the cooler, rather than warmer, side.

7. Reduce or eliminate drinking, if possible. Drinking can relax muscles too much and contribute to snoring.

8. Take all medications exactly as prescribed by your doctor.

Snoring can be a difficult issue to unravel. Do try safe recommendations to combat snoring…but leave medication as a last resort. There may be a simpler solution with fewer or no side effects so you can get a good night’s sleep.