Decongestants and Nasal Steroids to Treat Snoring

There are various causes of snoring, and one of the most common is nasal congestion, especially in the setting of colds or allergies. Whether it is called hay fever or allergic rhinitis, environmental allergens can make it hard to breathe, especially in sleep. In this situation, the use of decongestants and nasal steroids may be helpful in treating congestion and alleviating snoring. Learn how using these medications may provide relief and what alternative treatments exist.

A pharmacist stocks shelves with decongestants and nasal steroid sprays
Craig Mitchelldyer / Stringer / Getty Images

Breathing Through the Nose in Sleep

If you breathe through your nose at night, as most people do, you may find that you are more likely to snore if this airway becomes restricted due to illness or allergies. The common cold and environmental allergies — ranging from pollen, trees, dust, pet dander, and molds — may leave you feeling stuffy, and this can lead to increased snoring or airway obstruction that may even cause sleep apnea.

Your nostrils and nasal passage are the smallest part of your airway anatomy and when this area becomes crowded due to inflammation of the turbinates, you may find increased resistance to the movement of air. This can disrupt your breathing and sleep. There are permanent structures that can block the nose, such as a deviated septum, as well as temporary conditions called allergic rhinitis and vasomotor rhinitis, that may lead to snoring.

Decreased airflow through the nose may result in turbulence at the soft palate, uvula, and base of the tongue. This turbulent airflow produces the sound of snoring as these tissues vibrate. This can also be painful and lead to a dry, sore throat with mouth breathing. In addition, if the airway completely collapses in sleep, sleep apnea may occur. This is more likely to occur when the airway is crowded due to being overweight or obese, when alcohol or medications act as muscle relaxants, or when someone sleeps on their back.

What Can Improve Nasal Congestion

If you suffer from nasal congestion during certain times of the year, such as when you're sick or during the allergy season, you may benefit from temporary measures, including the use of saline sprays or rinses or even trials of medications such as:

Over-the-Counter Decongestants

  • Allegra (Pill)
  • Claritin (Pill)
  • Zyrtec (Pill)

Over-the-Counter Steroid Nasal Sprays

  • Flonase (Spray)
  • Nasacort (Spray)

Prescription Options

  • Astelin (Spray)
  • Beconase (Spray)
  • Dymista (Spray)
  • Nasonex (Spray)
  • Omnaris (Spray)
  • QNASL (Spray)
  • Rhinocort (Spray)
  • Veramyst (Spray)
  • Zetonna (Spray)
  • Singulair (Pill)

These medications may be used prior to going to bed to alleviate symptoms of snoring. Many should be used chronically during allergy season or, in some cases, year-round.

Topical medications such as Afrin that are applied within the nose may be helpful at targeting the area of congestion, but they should only be used for two to three days as they may cause rebound symptoms when they are stopped or overused.

Alternative Treatments

Some may find it helpful to use Breathe Right strips during sleep to open the nose and improve airflow. If sleep apnea is present, the use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) may improve breathing, even during the day.

If you have chronic nasal congestion, you may benefit from prescription medications that are meant to address these problems. Speak to your healthcare provider about what might work best for you. You may find that your snoring improves, and this could leave you — and your bed partner — sleeping better.

2 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. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Snoring.

  2. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Oxymetazoline nasal spray.

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