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Home > Patient & Family Resources > Health Library > Snoring
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This topic is about simple snoring. If you stop breathing, choke, or gasp during sleep, you may have a problem called sleep apnea, which can be serious. For more information, see the topic Sleep Apnea.
You snore when the flow of air from your mouth or nose to your lungs makes the tissues of your throat vibrate when you sleep. This can make a loud, raspy noise. Loud snoring can make it hard for you and your partner to get a good night's sleep.
You may not know that you snore. Your bed partner may notice the snoring and that you sleep with your mouth open. If snoring keeps you or your bed partner from getting a good night's sleep, one or both of you may feel tired during the day.
Snoring may point to other medical problems, such as obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can be a serious problem, because you stop breathing at times during sleep. So if you snore often, talk to your doctor about it.
Snoring is more common in men than in women.
When you sleep, the muscles in the back of the roof of your mouth (soft palate), tongue, and throat relax. If they relax too much, they narrow or block your airway. As you breathe, your soft palate and uvula vibrate and knock against the back of your throat. This causes the sounds you hear during snoring.
The tonsils and adenoids may also vibrate. The narrower the airway is, the more the tissue vibrates, and the louder the snoring is.
You may be able to treat snoring by making changes in your lifestyle and in the way you prepare for sleep. For example:
If these treatments don't work, you may be able to use a machine that helps you breathe while you sleep. This treatment is called continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP (say "SEE-pap"). In rare cases, your doctor may suggest surgery to open your airway.
Snoring isn't always considered a medical problem, so find out if your insurance covers the cost of treatment.
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You snore when the flow of air from your mouth or nose to your lungs makes the tissues of the airway vibrate. This usually is caused by a blockage (obstruction) or narrowing in the nose, mouth, or throat (airway).
When you inhale during sleep, air enters the mouth or nose and passes across the soft palate (the back of the roof of the mouth) on its way to the lungs. The back of the mouth—where the tongue and upper throat meet the soft palate and uvula —is collapsible. If this area collapses, the airway becomes narrow or blocked. The narrowed or blocked passage disturbs the airflow, which causes the soft palate and uvula to vibrate and knock against the back of the throat, causing snoring. The tonsils and adenoids may also vibrate. The narrower the airway is, the more the tissue vibrates, and the louder the snoring is.
You do not snore when you are awake because the muscles of the throat hold the tissues in the back of the mouth in place. When you sleep, the muscles relax, allowing the tissues to collapse.
Snoring may be caused by:
Other things that may contribute to snoring include:
Snoring is a noise that you may make while breathing during sleep. Snoring can be soft, loud, raspy, harsh, hoarse, or fluttering. Your bed partner may notice that you sleep with your mouth open and that you are restless while sleeping. If snoring interferes with your or your bed partner's sleep, either or both of you may feel tired during the day.
If you temporarily stop breathing during the night, you may have sleep apnea, a serious condition. For more information, see the topic Sleep Apnea.
Snoring occurs when the flow of air from the mouth or nose to your lungs makes the tissues of the airway vibrate. This usually is caused by a blockage (obstruction) or narrowing in the nose, mouth, or throat (airway).
Snoring can be so loud that it keeps your bed partner awake. You may also have a less restful sleep. Sleep quality may decrease as the loudness of the snoring increases. And snoring can result in daytime sleepiness.
Snoring that affects how well you sleep may increase your risk of high blood pressure.footnote 1, footnote 2
Snoring may progress to upper airway resistance syndrome or sleep apnea, a serious condition. For more information, see the topic Sleep Apnea.
Things that may increase your risk of snoring include:
Call your doctor if you or your bed partner:
Snoring is the main symptom of sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder in which you periodically stop breathing during sleep. For more information, see the topic Sleep Apnea.
Watchful waiting is a period of time during which you and your doctor observe your symptoms or condition without using medical treatment. Watchful waiting may be appropriate if your snoring doesn't disturb your bed partner or if you aren't overly sleepy during the day. If home treatment doesn't help your snoring, contact your doctor.
Watchful waiting may not be appropriate if you or your sleeping partner snores loudly and heavily, is restless during sleep, is sleepy during the day, or stops breathing when sleeping. These may point to sleep apnea. Contact your doctor.
Health professionals who can treat snoring include:
If sleep apnea is suspected, a doctor who specializes in treating sleep disorders (often a neurologist or pulmonologist) can help set up tests to diagnose sleep apnea. If your doctor recommends an oral breathing device, you may be referred to a dentist.
Diagnosis of snoring focuses on finding out whether you might have sleep apnea. Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history. Because a physical exam and medical history cannot determine if you have sleep apnea, a sleep study almost always will be done if your doctor suspects the condition.
For more information, see the topic Sleep Apnea.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics:footnote 3
Snoring is treated through lifestyle changes such as losing weight (if needed), quitting smoking, changing sleep habits (such as sleeping on your side instead of your back), and avoiding the use of alcohol and sedatives before you go to bed. Also, you can try over-the-counter medicines to reduce nasal congestion. Or you can use a device to help keep your airway open while you sleep.
If snoring continues despite these treatments, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or surgery may be tried. Implants that stiffen your palate can help reduce snoring and the daytime sleepiness it causes.footnote 4 But snoring is not always considered a medical problem, so insurance may not cover treatment.
Snoring is often treated successfully with lifestyle changes. You can:
If nasal congestion is present, you can try clearing your nasal passages or using medicines such as decongestants and nasal corticosteroid sprays. These open the airway, permitting a smoother airflow, and may reduce snoring. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not use the medicine longer than the label says.
Oral breathing devices, which push the tongue and jaw forward to improve airflow, sometimes can treat snoring, especially if it is caused by jaw position during sleep.
If your bed partner is bothered by your snoring, he or she may try using earplugs or machines that play ambient music or natural sounds. These can block or cover up the noise.
If snoring continues, your doctor may want to examine you again to see whether you have developed upper airway resistance syndrome or sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder in which you periodically stop breathing during sleep. For more information, see the topic Sleep Apnea.
If your snoring gets worse, talk to your doctor. You may need to be tested to see whether you have developed upper airway resistance syndrome or sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder in which you periodically stop breathing during sleep.
Your doctor may suggest continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). CPAP is the standard treatment for sleep apnea but is rarely used for snoring. For more information on CPAP, see the topic Sleep Apnea.
In extreme cases, surgery may be performed. For more information, see Surgery.
To help prevent snoring, you can:
Snoring typically is first treated at home. Treatment includes:
Medicine can help prevent or reduce snoring when it is caused by nasal congestion. Nasal congestion is usually caused by colds or allergies. Medicine may open the nasal passageway, permitting a smoother airflow and reducing snoring.
Decongestants (oral and nasal) and nasal corticosteroids both reduce nasal congestion. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Don't use the medicine longer than the label says. Overuse of a nasal decongestant can cause rebound congestion. It makes your mucous membranes swell up more than before you used the spray.
Surgery for snoring is rarely used and only considered in cases of very severe snoring when other treatments have failed.
Surgery is used to:
Surgery is rarely used to treat snoring. It may not completely cure snoring, and the risks of surgery may not be worth the small benefit you gain.
Snoring is not always considered a medical problem, so insurance may not cover treatment.
Other treatment for snoring includes continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and other breathing devices.
Nutritional counseling can help people who snore and are overweight.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the preferred treatment for sleep apnea. In rare cases, CPAP is considered for snoring. For information on CPAP, see the topic Sleep Apnea.
Oral breathing devices sometimes can treat snoring, especially if it is caused by jaw position during sleep.
Nasal dilators (such as nose strips and disks) can help keep your airways open while you sleep. Nose strips widen the nostrils and improve airflow. Nasal disks have a valve that makes it harder for you to breathe out. This causes a little back-pressure in your airways that may help keep them open. You can get many of these devices without a prescription. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your options.
Many products claim to cure snoring. Some of them may provide some help, but others may be of no value or may be harmful. Even if a product helps reduce your snoring, it is important to see a doctor, because snoring is the main symptom of sleep apnea, a potentially serious condition.
Knutson KL, et al. (2009). Association between sleep and blood pressure in midlife: The CARDIA sleep study. Archives of Internal Medicine, 169(11): 1055–1061.
Li AM, et al. (2009). Blood pressure is elevated in children with primary snoring. Journal of Pediatrics, 155(3): 362–368.
Marcus CL, et al. (2012). Diagnosis and management of childhood obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Pediatrics, 130(3): 576–584.
Palatal implants for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (2008). Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, 50(1282): 23–24.
Other Works Consulted
Collop NA, Cassell DK (2002). Snoring and sleep-disordered breathing. In TL Lee-Chiong Jr et al., eds., Sleep Medicine, pp. 349–355. Philadelphia: Hanley and Belfus.
Vlastos IM, Hajiioannou JK (2009). Clinical practice: Diagnosis and treatment of childhood snoring. European Journal of Pediatrics, July 21 (Epub ahead of print).
Current as ofSeptember 5, 2018
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineHasmeena Kathuria, MD - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Sleep Medicine
Current as of:
September 5, 2018
Medical Review:Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Hasmeena Kathuria, MD - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Sleep Medicine
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