What Is Snoring?

When a person’s airway becomes partially blocked, the restriction prevents some of the air that was inhaled from getting into the lungs. The “extra” air gets redirected into the mouth, creating a negative pressure which vibrates the soft tissue of the palate and creates snoring.

Snoring indicates that there is some resistance to the normal path of air from the outside to the lungs, and snoring is associated with disrupted sleep, daytime fatigue and sleepiness, and decreases in oxygen levels in the body. Snoring can also be extremely disruptive to the sleep of the bedpartner and can stress interpersonal relationships of couples.

In addition to disturbed sleep patterns and sleep deprivation, other serious health problems may result. Snoring may also be a symptom of other medical conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Not everybody who snores has OSA, and not everybody who has OSA has snoring.

It is estimated that 45 percent of all adults snore occasionally, and 25 percent habitually snore. Snoring is more common in males and people who are overweight.

What causes snoring?

Snoring may be caused by many factors, including:

  • Poor muscle tone
  • Excessively bulky throat tissue
  • Long soft palate
  • Long uvula
  • Stuffed or blocked nasal passages
  • Deformities of the nose
  • Deformities of the nasal septum
Can snoring be prevented?

Mild or occasional snoring may be helped by:

  • A healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and proper diet
  • Losing weight
  • Avoiding tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and antihistamines before bedtime
  • Avoiding alcohol at least four hours before bedtime
  • Avoiding heavy meals at least three hours before bedtime
  • Establishing regular sleeping patterns
  • Sleeping on your side
  • Tilting the head of the bed up about 4 inches

Heavy or chronic snoring may require medical care.

Treating Snoring

A comprehensive history and physical examination by a sleep physician followed by an overnight sleep study or polysomnogram, is absolutely necessary to diagnose a sleep related breathing disorder in children or adults.

Based on the results of the overnight sleep study, your sleep physician will be able to determine whether or not you have a sleep related breathing disorder that warrants treatment.

Specific treatment for snoring will be determined by your physician based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the disorder
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the disorder
  • Your opinion or preference
Non-surgical treatments for snoring

Non-surgical treatment for snoring may include a nasal mask that provides continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or other oral appliances.

  • Positive airway pressure therapies
  • Oral appliances
Surgical treatments for snoring

There are several surgical procedures that can also improve snoring, some of which can be performed on an outpatient basis, and that involve reducing the volume of excess tissue in the airway that produces snoring. See the Sleep Surgery Clinic to learn more about these surgical procedures