Treatments to Avoid Snoring on an Airplane

It is surprisingly probably one of the more common fears and anxieties 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 an airplane? Learn a few simple steps and treatments like avoiding alcohol, allergy relief, and nasal strips that might help you to avoid potential embarrassment.

man snoring on airplane
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Causes of 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 of how it may be viewed by others or that it may lead to judgment. Although snoring may be due to your anatomy, there are a few things that can be done about this.

Interventions to Improve Snoring Before the Plane Takes Off

There are a few treatments and interventions that can improve snoring far in advance of an airplane flight. 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 by moving the cartilage and this may reduce snoring.

In addition, tissue filters called nasal turbinates (or nasal polyps) 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 also remove or tighten up these tissues and minimize vibration.

Last-Minute Treatments for Snoring

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: Allergy treatment with saline spray, a Neti pot, or nasal steroid sprays (like Flonase, Nasacort, Nasonex, etc.) can reduce nasal congestion and improve snoring.

Oral Appliances: Snoring may also be helped with an oral appliance. These are fitted by a dentist and can help to relieve loud snoring by shifting the lower jaw and tongue forward.

CPAP Therapy: It might even be possible to use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine on a long flight. Newer travel models are small enough to be used on airplanes, and some even operate on a battery if power is not available at your seat.

Position: 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.

Reduce Alcohol Intake: 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.

Additional Options: You may find it helpful to use a little nasal saline spray or even to swallow some olive oil while in transit. Beware of fluid restrictions with carry-on luggage on flights.

A Word From Verywell

There is really no reason to feel embarrassed 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.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Sleep Foundation. Common Causes of Snoring.

  2. Stanford Health Care. Septoplasy.

  3. Stanford Health Care. Turbinate Reduction.

  4. Lorenzi-filho G, Almeida FR, Strollo PJ. Treating OSA: Current and emerging therapies beyond CPAP. Respirology. 2017;22(8):1500-1507. doi:: 10.1111/resp.13144.

Additional Reading
  • Kryger, MH et al. Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine. Elsevier, 6th edition, 2017.

By Brandon Peters, MD
Brandon Peters, MD, is a board-certified neurologist and sleep medicine specialist.