Snoring is a sound made during sleep. It's the sound of the throat vibrating as air flows through it.

Blocked Airway

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Air should be able to move freely through your mouth, nose, and throat. At times during sleep, air doesn't move as freely as it should. Turbulent air makes the roof of the mouth vibrate. This is what causes the snoring sound. Smaller airways can lead to louder snoring. Airflow may be obstructed by:

  • Weak muscles in the tongue and throat
  • Larger than normal tonsils or adenoids around the throat
  • Cysts or tumors
  • Structural problems such as a:
    • Long, soft palate
    • Long uvula
    • Deviated septum
    • Small chin, overbite, or high palate
  • Congestion from a cold, flu, sinus infection, or allergies
  • More serious sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.

Risk Factors

Snoring is more common in men, mainly in those aged 50 years and older. Your chances are also higher for:

  • Having any of the conditions mentioned above
  • Being overweight
  • Having people in your family that snore
  • Taking medicines that slow down the nervous system
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Lying on your back while sleeping


The main sign of snoring is noisy breathing during sleep.

When Should I Call My Doctor?

Ask your partner about your snoring patterns. Talk to your doctor if you have regular snoring that is bothering you or your partner. This is mainly true with sleep apnea symptoms such as gasping for air or having problems getting through the day because you're too tired.

If your child is snoring regularly, talk to their doctor.


You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor will check the throat, neck, mouth, and nose.

Tests may include a sleep study in a laboratory to determine how much the storing is disrupting your sleep.


Lifestyle changes may relieve symptoms. More severe cases may require surgery or devices.

Lifestyle Changes

Changes that may help stop snoring:

  • If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about how to lose weight safely.
  • Exercise to improve muscle tone.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or taking sedatives.
  • Establish regular sleeping patterns.
  • Sleep on your side rather than on your back.
  • Treat causes of nasal congestion such as allergies or colds.
  • Raise the head of the bed up about 4 inches. Use extra pillows or put something under the mattress.
  • Try using nasal strips to help keep the airway open in your nose.

Your doctor may advise using a special mouthpiece. This will hold the soft palate and tongue in place. It may help you breathe better.


Surgery may be done to remove excess tissue in the nose or throat. A laser or scalpel will remove the tissue that's blocking the airway. Laser surgery may be needed a few times. These are mainly reserved for severe and disruptive cases of snoring.

Another procedure is used to try to stiffen the roof of the mouth.


To help lower your chances of snoring:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Treat cold and allergy symptoms.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or taking sedatives for several hours before bedtime.
  • Sleep on your side.

American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute


Better Sleep Council Canada

Canadian Sleep Society


How to stop snoring. Helpguide website. Available at: Accessed September 25, 2020.

Snoring. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: Accessed September 25, 2020.

Snoring and sleep. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: Accessed September 25, 2020.

Snoring and sleep apnea. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: Accessed September 25, 2020.

Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board  Last Updated: 9/25/2020