Snoring is a sound made during sleep. It is the sound of the throat vibrating as air flows through it. It may disrupt the person's or bed partner's sleep. Treatment can help.
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Snoring is caused by air not moving freely through the mouth, nose, and throat. This makes air 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
- The size and shape of structures such as a:
- Long soft palate
- Long uvula
- Deviated septum
- Small chin, overbite, or high palate
- Stuffy nose from a cold , flu , sinus infection , or allergies
- More serious sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
Snoring is more common in men and those aged 50 years and older. Other things that may raise the risk are:
- Having any of the conditions mentioned above
- Being overweight
- Other family members who snore
- Medicines that slow down the nervous system
- Lying on the back while sleeping
The main sign of snoring is noisy breathing during sleep.
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will check the throat, neck, mouth, and nose.
A sleep study may be done. The person will be observed during sleep at a special center. They will be able to track changes in breathing and sleep.
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
- Not using alcohol or sedatives medicine
- A regular sleep routine
- Changing sleep position—sleeping on the side rather than back
- Raising the head by:
- Lifting the head of the bed up about 4 inches
- Using extra pillows or wedge under the mattress
- Nasal strips or airflow dilators—to help keep the nose airway open
- Mouthpieces to help keep soft tissue away from back of throat
- Managing allergies or colds to ease or prevent stuffiness
To help lower the risk of snoring:
- Reach and keep a healthy body weight.
- Treat cold and allergy symptoms.
- Do not drink alcohol or take sedatives for several hours before bedtime.
- Sleep on your side.
- How to stop snoring. Helpguide.org website. Available at: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/snoring-tips-to-help-you-and-your-partner-sleep-better.htm.
- Snoring—approach to the patient. DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/approach-to/snoring-approach-to-the-patient.
- Snoring and sleep. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/snoring.
- Snoring and sleep apnea. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: https://www.enthealth.org/conditions/snoring-sleeping-disorders-and-sleep-apnea.
- Yaremchuk K. Why and when to treat snoring. Otolaryngol Clin North Am. 2020;53(3):351-365.
- Mark Arredondo, MD
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