Decongestants for Snoring

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Decongestants for Snoring


Many over-the-counter decongestants are available to treat snoring. The following are a few examples:

Generic NameBrand Name

Some decongestants are sprayed into the nose. Others are taken in pill form.

In some provinces, medicines containing pseudoephedrine (such as Sudafed) are kept behind the pharmacist's counter or require a prescription. You may need to ask the pharmacist for it or have a prescription from your doctor to buy the medicine. The amount of decongestant you can buy at one time also may be limited.

How It Works

Decongestants narrow blood vessels, reducing the blood supply to nasal mucous membranes. This reduces nasal congestion. If snoring is caused by nasal congestion, snoring may be reduced.

  • Oral decongestants not only narrow blood vessels in the nose, they also narrow blood vessels in other parts of the body, which can cause side effects such as high blood pressure and nervousness.
  • Nasal decongestant sprays narrow blood vessels only in the nose and not in other parts of the body, so they rarely cause the side effects that oral decongestants do. But you can only use nasal decongestants for a few days. Using them longer than this can lead to rebound congestion, a condition in which the decongestant causes initial relief followed by nasal congestion that gets worse. Using a nasal decongestant continually to avoid rebound congestion can result in a dependence on the medicine.

Why It Is Used

Decongestants are used for nasal congestion. Nasal congestion may contribute to snoring, so using decongestants may help reduce snoring.

How Well It Works

Nasal spray decongestants work within about 10 minutes and may relieve nasal congestion for up to 12 hours. Oral decongestants work within 30 minutes and may relieve nasal congestion for up to 6 hours. If you can reduce the amount of nasal congestion, you may be able to reduce your snoring.

Purchased or homemade saltwater (saline) nasal sprays may also help clear up a stuffy nose. See information on cleaning your nasal passages with salt water.

Side Effects

If too much nasal decongestant spray is used or if it is used for too long a time, rebound congestion may occur between uses or after use is stopped.

Side effects of decongestant pills may include:

In men with an enlarged prostate, use of decongestants may cause difficulty urinating.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

  • Decongestant nasal sprays should be used only for short periods of time (not more than 3 days in a row).
  • Overdose of decongestants can cause high blood pressure, nervousness, kidney failure, heart rhythm disturbances, strokes, and seizures. But commonly used decongestants have little effect on blood pressure when used as directed. If you have uncontrolled high blood pressure, you should not use these medicines.
  • If you have coronary artery disease, diabetes, or thyroid problems, talk to your doctor before using decongestants.
  • If you have glaucoma or other conditions that cause increased pressure inside the eye, talk with your ophthalmologist before using decongestant medicines.
  • If you are taking tricyclic antidepressants and/or monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), which are sometimes used to treat depression and migraine headaches, talk to your doctor before using decongestants.
  • Many non-prescription preparations for other health problems, such as some diet pills, contain decongestants. To avoid a possible overdose, do not take at the same time two medicines that contain decongestants.
  • Before you give decongestant medicines to a child, check the label. These medicines are not recommended for children younger than age 6. If your child’s doctor tells you to give a medicine, be sure to follow what he or she tells you to do.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Jan Ulfberg - Sleep Medicine
Last Revised November 21, 2010

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.