Nasal Dilators

Nasal dilators are a relatively well-known type of stop snoring device, mostly because there has been a lot of effort lately to advertise them better. They usually consist of small, short, circular plastic ‘tubes’ that may or may not be connected to each other, depending on the brand of device… but usually they are connected via a little bitty piece of plastic, which is intended to avoid allowing them to become separated.

You may have seen advertisements for these products as you shop for anti-snoring products. The advertisements often show us products that are basically guaranteed to solve our snoring woes. But are these ads legitimate? Or are they taking things a bit too far?

As it turns out, the hype may not live up to the real-life experience! Some people have reported nasal dilators as a quality snoring therapy, but far more people seem to feel that they are a bit lacking when use on their own!

Nasal dilators are best well known for how they ‘dilate’ the nasal passages. This means that they open them up, thereby allowing you to breathe better. They are intended to help with your snoring problem in a few different ways, and are pretty common.

One of the biggest upsides to this type of device is how inexpensive and accessible they are. You can buy a generic version of them, at least, almost anywhere. And since they are so small, they are also quite affordable in most cases.

They are easy to take with you when you travel, and cheap to replace if they get lost or broken.

But, they are typically only helpful for treating nasal snoring – which is a bit of a downside.

How Are Nasal Dilators Meant To Work?

This is a pretty simple product, to be honest. They are meant to be inserted into the nasal passages, just enough to widen them out. This allows more air to pass through, and should make you feel much less ‘congested’ or ‘restricted’ in your breathing.

How Nasal Dilators Work

Nasal dilators are designed to do two things.

First of all, they were designed to help promote nose breathing… which is pretty important. It is much healthier to breathe through your nose during sleep than through your mouth… and this type of product makes that much easier to do.

And secondly, they help to widen out the nostrils enough to help stop (or reduce) any instances of nasal breathing that might occur.

How to Use Nasal Dilators

Unfortunately, this is also one of the downsides to nasal dilators. They help to treat the root causes of nasal snoring – but not the most common type of snoring, which is soft palate vibration.

This means that, while they may always help, by helping to promote nose breathing, they might not do the trick in every case… especially among those who are snoring due to soft palate vibration.

Do We Believe That Nasal DilatorsWork?

Nasal dilators definitely have their place. They are not perfect, and they do not help in every case. But they do boast a rather impressive range of interesting benefits – and some of these benefits make them quite an interesting product to at least try.

First of all, some of them are pretty cheap. Secondly, there are a lot of different versions of this product available on the market. Third, they are super small and portable. Fourth, they are extremely easy to use.

Our Easy Breezy Tube Sample

They also really do help to promote nose breathing – and might be an awesome choice for people who are suffering from allergies or some other kind of nasal congestion. If you are tired of not being able to breathe through your nose as well as you would like, then they can actually do you a lot of good.

But alas – they do not have quite as good a track record when it comes to the practice of actually treating snoring. They can work well in conjunction with other types of products, but they do very little to help treat any of the root causes of soft-palate vibration – which makes them far less effective than a lot of other products on the market.

The Positives

Here are the upsides to using Nasal Dilators…

  • They are inexpensive
  • They are easy to use
  • They are easy to find and buy
  • They are small and portable
  • They can help to reduce or even eliminate problems with nasal snoring

The Negatives

Here are the downsides to using Nasal Dilators…

  • They can be uncomfortable for some people
  • They tend not to be as effective as some other types of anti-snoring devices
  • They only treat nasal snoring – not soft palate vibration snoring

Who Should Use This Product, And When?

The best candidates for Nasal Dilators are people who want an easy-to-use stop snoring remedy, but who don’t want to skip right to more intense types of products, like MADs or tongue retention devices. Nasal dilators may not work for everyone – but they can offer an inexpensive, minimally invasive option that you can try before moving on to more extreme types of products.

In this sense, a lot of people will try this type of product before graduating to something more invasive or expensive… just in case they do the trick.

Who Shouldn’t Use This Type Of Product?

People with sensitive nostrils will probably not like this type of product. They are also typically not supposed to be used by children or teenagers. If you suffer from soft palate vibration, then you can use this type of product – but it may not work.

If you fear that you might be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, then you might want to forgo this option and make an appointment with your doctor to discuss clinically-proven treatments.

Why do So Many People Call Nasal Strips Nasal Dilators?

This can, admittedly, be confusing for people who are interested in exploring the differences between nasal dilators and nasal strips. But at the same time, it is an understandable habit.

Nasal dilators and nasal strips are often lumped into the category of ‘nasal dilators’ together because they both work to dilate the nostrils. That’s it. It’s that simple.

Of course, there are differences… but this explains why so many people lump in them together.

On this website, we make an effort to treat them as separate categories of devices, though… mostly because the differences of using both deserve a certain amount of attention.

Nasal dilators go inside the nose, while nasal strips stick to the outside. We believe that this is an important distinction to make for consumers, as one may appeal more to them than the other.

From a physics perspective, both are accomplishing just about the same thing. But we believe in categorizing them differently, mostly because the experience of using one is quite different from the experience of using the other.

Are Nasal Dilators Uncomfortable?

This is actually one of our main complaints about nasal dilators. Some of them actually are quite comfortable. But with that being said, we have also used some that have actually been painful to wear in the nasal passages.

It really all boils down to the material and to how your nose is shaped. Some different types of dilators come in different sizes, which is cool… though you may have to order one of each before you will be able to find the size that fits you the best.

There is also a lot of diversity among different types, shapes, and styles when it comes to this product. Some of them consist of small tubes that you literally ‘slide into’ your nose, while others consist of small ‘wing-shaped’ pieces of plastic that you insert into the nostrils. These little ‘wings’ hold the nostrils open, and help the wearer to breathe better through their nose than they would otherwise.

We’ve actually had a better experience with the ‘wing’ type of nasal dilator than with the ‘tube-shaped’ style, though we have used good and bad versions of both.

Why Use Nasal Dilators Instead of Nasal Strips?

Nasal strips and nasal dilators are fairly similar products that basically both use different methods to do the same thing. Both of them work to create more room in the nasal passages, but they do so in almost opposite ways.

Nasal dilators work from the inside, pushing the nasal passages outward… while nasal strips work from the outside, pulling the outer part of the nose outward to create more room in the nasal passages.

Incidentally, these two types of anti-snoring products were actually compared in a study-review called Nasal Dilators (Breathe Right Strips and NoZovent) for Snoring and OSA: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, which was published in Pulmonary Medicine back in 2016.

The review was intended to ‘systematically review the international literature for studies evaluating internal and external nasal dilators as treatment for obstructive sleep apnea.’

Unfortunately, the study concluded that, on their own, nasal dilators didn’t seem to do a lot to help with sleep apnea, though it was discovered that they could help in certain circumstances. For example… they were not found to be curative for OSA, but could reduce the amount of pressure required for CPAP when they were used in conjunction with it, etc.

Here is a quote from the study discussion text.

“Although nasal dilators may subjectively improve a patient’s nasal obstruction, the devices have not been demonstrated improving sleep study parameters. Therefore, the devices should not be thought of as curative for OSA but rather should be considered as adjuncts to treatment.”

From a clinical standpoint, both types of devices seem to be about equal… though in the above-mentioned review, it must be noted that internal nasal dilators did show an improvement in apnea indexes, while external nasal strips did not.

But we can tell you from personal experience that they are not necessarily one-and-the-same on the experience-side of things.

Which Are More Comfortable? Nasal Strips or Nasal Dilators?

In our experience, nasal strips tend to be more comfortable overall than nasal dilators.

But with that being said, nasal strips are also disposable, while nasal dilators are not. Nasal dilators can be used for months before they will need to be replaced, which makes them cheaper in the long run.

There are also so many different types of nasal dilators on the market nowadays that you can pretty easily find the best options for you with just a few different tries.

(Trial and error is an unfortunate necessity when picking out and trying different anti-snoring treatment options).

Also, keep in mind that snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, though very similar, are not always the same thing. So if you happen to be suffering from a snoring problem, but not a sleep-apnea problem, then you may find both of these options more desirable and helpful.

Nasal strips and nasal dilators also suffer from different downsides. Nasal strips can peel off while you sleep, but nasal dilators can fall out.

The closer you look at them, the more you realize that they are actually very similar products… they just exist at opposite ends of the ‘nasal’ paradigm.

But even so… some people tend to like one over the other. It is all a matter of preference… and in some cases, it may very well come down to nose structure!

Are Nasal Strips Really That Much More Expensive?

Nasal strips are quite a bit more expensive than nasal dilators in the long-run, depending on what you are buying. For the price of a box of nasal strips that will last you for a couple of weeks or a month, you can usually buy a set of nasal dilators that will last you for several months… if not a year or more!

Some nasal dilators even last a lifetime if taken care of. This is why the are known as one of the least-expensive snoring treatment options on the market.

Could Nasal Dilators Be a Suitable Alternative to Surgery?

If you have heard this, you may be referencing the healio.com article, Review finds nasal dilators might be alternative to surgery.

This article references a review that was published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, which describes a process that researchers went through in an attempt to thoroughly evaluate every commercially-available, over-the-counter nasal dilator on the market, and assess whether or not any of them were actually helpful in treating ‘nasal obstruction.’

Their review was actually quite thorough. They divided all of the dilators up into four different categories. These categories included…

  • External nasal dilator strips
  • Nasal Stents
  • Nasal Clips
  • Septal Stimulators

Unfortunately for nasal dilators of all different calibers, the results of this review were similar to the results of the study cited above. Here is a quote from the article on healio.com.

“Although some nasal dilators are marketed as noninvasive alternatives to surgery for use in patients with obstructive sleep apnea and nasal anatomic abnormalities, such as septal deviation, turbinate hypertrophy, and nasal valve compromise, these devices do not currently have the ability to provide long-term patency to individuals with the aforementioned conditions or be seen as truly an alternative option for these conditions.”

In other words, surgery is still seen as a better treatment option for nasal obstruction… even with so many different nasal-dilator options on the market in so many different styles.

Final Thoughts

We don’t like this option as much as we like some of the other options in our list. But there are also worse alternatives.

Nasal dilators are a simple idea, and while they do not work for everyone, a lot of snorers can find them at least helpful – if for no other reason than for the fact that they can really help to open up the nasal passages.

Some people end up using nasal dilators in combination with other stop-snoring methods, and this can have very positive effects. Of course, it all depends on your specific situation. We have heard of them being used in conjunction with MADs, TSDs, CPAP machines, and even stop-snoring chin straps.

One thing to keep in mind is that Nasal Dilators do promote nasal breathing… which is definitely an upside. Nasal breathing is healthier than mouth breathing, and is the type of breathing we should be doing as we sleep.

But at the same time, an increase in nasal breathing does not necessarily mean a reduction in snoring.

We’ve tried both products… and must admit that we have seen better results with nasal strips. But we have also tried some pretty awesome nasal dilators. It just depends on your nose, your preferences, and what you are looking for.

Updated 2.5.2019

Josh Sigafus Editor

Joshua Sigafus is just a writer trying to make the world a better place. You can find him on Facebook.