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Are chin straps for snoring safe and effective?

snoring
(© Maridav – stock.adobe.com)

There are several options available to people who need something to help them to stop snoring but, when used as a standalone snoring aid, chin straps are probably not one of the better options.

That’s not to say chin straps for snoring do not work at all. Some light snorers find wearing a chin strap is all it takes to make that terrible grunting noise disappear.

However, chin straps were originally developed to help people using a CPAP machine. They were never intended to be used as a primary anti-snoring device.

CPAP machines are an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure.

OSA is a dangerous medical condition that causes the airway to close during sleep. CPAP machines have a small electric pump that pumps air to the mouth and/or nose via a special face mask or nasal inserts.

The constant flow of air pressurizes the airway, preventing the sagging that would otherwise obstruct breathing.

As well as restricting normal breathing, the sagging flesh in and around the airway also causes turbulence, which makes the flesh vibrate noisily. This audible vibration is the sound we call snoring.

Although many people who have OSA snore, a lot of people who snore do not have OSA. The main difference is the degree of obstruction. In the case of people who snore and do not have OSA, the airway obstruction is never sufficient to stop breathing.

Alternatively ………….

What is a snoring chin strap?

Also known as anti-snoring chin straps, snoring chin straps are made from flexible fabric, such as neoprene or Lycra.

The design can vary a little from one manufacturer to the next but, regardless of the various minor differences, they all slip over the head and cradle the lower jaw.

The straps apply pressure to the lower jaw helping to keep the mouth closed during sleep. This is their main purpose. Similar as some of the best anti-snoring devices, like a tongue retaining device (TSD).

Some, but not all, chin straps have an adjustment mechanism to help you get the most efficient tension and greatest comfort during use.

How do chin strap aim to stop snoring?

The manufacturers and distributors who market chin straps as a primary snore stopper claim the straps control snoring by preventing the mouth from opening during sleep. There are arguments to back this theory.

Some people are nose snorers. Others snore via their mouths. Mouth snoring is more common than nose snoring so let’s take a look at that first.

When we go to sleep, the muscles at the back of the throat relax, become more pliable, and sag slightly. This obstructs airflow.

The muscles and tissue of the upper palate relax as well. As does the tongue, which often drops backward, further obstructing airflow.

When the jaw drops open it can enhance the obstructions already present, adding to the air turbulence. This can increase snoring.

When the mouth is open, the air that would normally flow through the nose passes over the soft palate at the top of the mouth. It also has to pass by the uvula (flesh that dangles from the top of the throat). This route of travel exposes extra flesh to turbulence. Again, this can make snoring worse.

So, in theory, by keeping the mouth closed, a good snoring chin strap should reduce snoring and may even stop it entirely. But only for mouth snorers.

Nose snoring is slightly different. It happens when the nasal passages have a blockage or are too small.

The obstructions can cause turbulence at the back of the nose, which may result in snoring.

They can also encourage you to sleep with your mouth open, causing mouth snoring.

If you are a nose snorer, a chin strap will not help you. In fact, unless you are using a CPAP machine, it may cause more problems than it’s worth.

How well does a chin strap work with CPAP?

Chin straps can work well with CPAP. Let’s not forget, they were invented specifically to aid this type of treatment.

When you are using a CPAP machine, if your mouth falls open, it can result in a loss of air pressure at the back of the throat. If this happens, the flesh may sag and obstruction may occur.

Depending on the degree of sagging, this could result in snoring or apnea (a period where breathing stops).

For obvious reasons, this situation can be particularly bad when using a CPAP machine with nasal inserts. If you are using this option, combining your CPAP treatment with a chin strap can be an efficient pairing.

However, research from Helsinki University Central Hospital in Finland only partially proves the value of chin straps when used alongside CPAP.

Although the data shows the straps reduced mouth leaks and [sleep] arousal periods, the researchers found the indices “unacceptably high.” They also found chin straps have the potential to increase snoring and, in rare cases, make OSA worse. This suggests a need for further study.

Nevertheless, many people find chin straps work very well alongside their existing CPAP treatment.

Chin straps as a stand-alone remedy for snoring (Do they work?)

There are many brands of snoring chin strap available to buy online. Customer feedback suggests some of the best brands do work well for some people.  The reviews for some brands suggest a success rate that’s greater than 50 percent. Unfortunately, the reviews for other brands are a lot poorer.

So, how good are snoring chin straps when used in a non-CPAP environment? They appear to be a hit and miss snoring solution, at best. It’s worth noting that, although doctors often recommend alternative options, such as using a mandibular advancement device (MAD), they never suggest using chin straps as a primary snoring solution.

This is, perhaps, not so surprising. MADs open up the airway by advancing the lower jaw during sleep. This pulls the tongue forward, preventing it from becoming an obstruction.

Tongue retaining devices (TRDs) also work by pulling the tongue forward during sleep.

Although snoring chin straps can apply pressure that helps prevent the mouth from opening during sleep, they also tend to force the jaw backward. In effect, they are doing the exact opposite of a MAD or TRD. This may help explain why so many people report less than satisfactory results when using a chin strap as a primary means of controlling snoring.

Chin straps for normal snoring and osa: Are they safe?

Chin straps are unlikely to present any safety issues for people who can breathe easily via their noses. However, they are a less desirable option for anyone who a bent septum or other issues that restrict normal nose breathing.

Nor would it be wise to wear a snoring chin strap during times of nasal congestion (colds, flu, allergies, etc.)

If nose breathing is restricted or not possible, you will need to open your mouth to breathe. A chin strap can make this difficult so, in this instance, could be seen as being potentially dangerous—unless you are using a CPAP machine.

Potential side effects

Some people find wearing a chin strap irritates their skin. Where this is the case, it may be possible to remedy the situation by choosing a strap made from an alternative material. However, if you have unusually sensitive skin, there are no guarantees.

Some people also find using a chin strap causes them to wake up with jaw ache. This is a problem that may only be apparent in the early days of use but, again, there are no guarantees.

If you live in a warm climate, there is also a possibility that using a chin strap may make your head feel too warm and cause excessive sweating. Either of these problems has the potential to keep you awake.

Summary

Although chin straps may be useful when used alongside CPAP, as a means of controlling OSA, they only appear to have limited value as a primary anti-snoring device. Anti-snoring mouthpieces such as MADs and TRDs offer a greater chance of success.

Nevertheless, some people who have experience using this type of anti-snoring device report very good results. The truth is, it’s probably just the luck of the draw. The only way to be certain if a chin strap will be good for controlling your snoring is to try one and see.

If you are going to take a gamble in this way, it’s probably a good idea to go for an option that has a money-back guarantee.  Unfortunately, few manufacturers offer this.

If you are a nose snorer or have problems breathing through your nose, buying a snoring chin strap won’t be a good move. Your condition will force you to open your mouth and the strap will make this difficult to do. You should only be considering “strapping up” your jaw if you can breath through your nose.

All things considered, unless you have OSA and use a CPAP machine, it may be better to ditch the idea of a chin strap and go for an alternative anti-snoring aid instead.

Story by Cyndy Lane


Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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