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Snoring

Definition

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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Causes

Air should move freely through your mouth, nose, and throat. Air that doesn't move freely can vibrate the roof of the mouth and cause the snoring sound. Smaller airways can lead to louder snoring. Airflow may be disrupted by:

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

Risk Factors

Snoring is more common in men, and those aged 50 years and older. Other things that may increase the risk of snoring are:

  • Having any of the conditions mentioned above
  • Being overweight
  • Other members in your family snore
  • Medicines that slow down the nervous system
  • Alcohol
  • Lying on your back while sleeping

Symptoms

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. It is important to talk about gasping for air while you sleep or problems getting through the day because you're too tired.

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

Diagnosis

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

A sleep study may be done. Technicians will observe you during sleep at a medical center. They will be able to track changes in breathing and sleep.

Treatment

Treatment will depend on how severe snoring is. Some steps that may help to ease or stop snoring are:

  • Weight loss—for those who are overweight
  • Exercise—to improve muscle tone
  • Avoidance of alcohol or sedatives medication
  • Regular sleep routine
  • Change in sleep position—sleep on your side rather than back
  • Raising the head—may lift head of the bed up about 4 inches, use extra pillows, or wedge under the mattress
  • Nasal strips—to help keep the nose airway open
  • Mouthpieces to help keep soft tissue away from back of throat
  • Manage allergies or colds to ease or prevent congestion

Surgery may be needed for severe snoring that is preventing good sleep. Excess tissue can be removed from 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. Another type of procedure may be chosen to stiffen the roof of the mouth.

Prevention

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.
RESOURCES:

American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
https://www.entnet.org

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Better Sleep Council Canada
https://www.bettersleep.ca

Canadian Sleep Society
https://css-scs.ca

REFERENCES:

How to stop snoring. Helpguide website. Available at: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/snoring-tips-to-help-you-and-your-partner-sleep-better.htm. Accessed September 25, 2020.

Snoring. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/snoring.html. Accessed September 25, 2020.

Snoring and sleep. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/other-sleep-disorders/snoring. Accessed September 25, 2020.

Snoring and sleep apnea. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: https://www.entnet.org//content/snoring-and-sleep-apnea. Accessed September 25, 2020.

Last reviewed March 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board  Last Updated: 9/25/2020