Snorers: Help Your Partner Get More Zs

Snorers: Help Your Partner Get More Z’s

Healthnotes Newswire (November 18, 2004)—Snorers who use a throat spray or gargle made with essential oils can reduce their bed-partners’ irritation, according to a study published in Phytotherapy Research (2004;18:696–9).

Snoring is the sound created as breath moves across the mouth and throat during sleep. Although most people who snore are healthy, snoring can be a sign of an underlying health problem. Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder characterized by snoring and periodic pauses in breathing during sleep. People with sleep apnea do not sleep deeply and therefore experience symptoms such as daytime sleepiness and poor concentration. People with simple snoring generally get adequate sleep and do not have these daytime concerns; however, their bed-partners can suffer from severe sleep deprivation. It is reported that 40% of men and 25% of women over age 60 snore. The consequences of chronic simple snoring can include sleep disruption, discord in the primary relationship, and irritation to people sleeping in rooms or houses nearby. There is no known, consistently effective treatment for simple snoring.

Essential oils, also known as volatile oils, are fragrant components of many plants. Essential oils have demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects, and their aromas are reputedly calming. One essential oil combination, called “Helps Stop Snoring,” (Essential Health Products, UK), has been used as a throat gargle or spray to stop snoring. It contains the essential oils from the following plants: common mint, peppermint, lemon, lemon balm, clove, pine, fennel, sage, thyme, citronella, eucalyptus, lavender, scotch pine, and mastic. Its effectiveness has not previously been studied.

In the current study, 98 snorers without sleep apnea were randomly assigned to receive the essential oil spray or gargle, or a placebo. The spray was applied to the throat at bedtime as two sets of three sprays with a swallow in between; the gargle was prepared by putting six drops of the oil mixture in half a glass of water, gargled in mouthfuls until the mixture was gone for a total of about two to three minutes at bedtime. Snoring was monitored by bed-partners who were instructed to rate the snoring on a scale from 0 (none) to 10 (very bad) for 14 days prior to beginning the gargle or spray and for 14 days while using the treatment. The bed-partners of 82% of those using either the gargle or the spray reported decreased snoring during the treatment period, while only 44% of the partners of placebo users reported decreased snoring.

The results of this study suggest that essential oils used in a spray or gargle could be helpful in reducing snoring. The snoring reduction might be due to the some relaxing effect of the essential oils on the muscles of the throat and mouth, or to some other effect. It is also possible that the benefit is instead due to some relaxing effect of the aromas of the essential oils on the bed-partner which might help them to sleep better and perceive less snoring.

This study found that the irritation to snorers’ bed-partners—which may be the most important consequence of simple snoring—can be reduced with the use of this essential oil gargle and spray; however snoring was not measured objectively. Future research should include some measurement of actual changes in snoring to deepen our understanding of the properties of essential oils. It would also be useful to study the effects of this essential oil spray and gargle in people with sleep apnea.

“Helps Stop Snoring” is available in some pharmacies in the UK and on the Internet.

Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.

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