Snoring: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment


Snoring is the hoarse or harsh sound you make when your breathing is blocked while you are asleep. Nearly everyone snores now and then, but for some people it can be a chronic problem. Snoring may cause frequent awakenings at night and daytime sleepiness. Snoring can also be a sign of a serious sleep disorder called sleep apnea. Snoring is a common condition.

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology (AAO), about 45 percent of American adults snore and 25 percent snore on a regular basis. Snoring is more often in men than women and can worsen with aging.


When the tissues in your airways relax and narrow your airway, the airflow will be constricted, causing a vibrating sound. The following conditions can affect the airway and cause snoring:

  • The anatomy of mouth. People with enlarged tissues and tonsils that restrict airflow generally produce mild snores.
  • Nasal and sinus problems. Blocked airways or chronic nasal congestion make inhalation difficult and create a vacuum in the throat, contributing to snoring.
  • Sleep position. Sleeping flat on the back will cause the flesh of your throat to relax and block the airway, leading to snoring.
  • Alcohol consumption. Alcohol increases muscle relaxation and decreases your natural defenses against airway obstruction, causing more snoring.
  • Obesity. Being overweight can also cause snoring because of excess fat buildup on the neck that constricts the airways when you lie down.
  • Age. As people reach middle age and beyond, the throat becomes narrower and the muscle tone in the throat decreases.


Snoring is often associated with a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Therefore, it may have the following symptoms:

  • Breathing pauses during sleep
  • Restless sleep
  • Gasping or choking at night
  • Chest pain at night
  • Morning headaches
  • Sore throat upon awakening


To diagnose snoring, the doctor may first perform a physical exam and ask about the patient’s sleeping patterns. There are also some other diagnostic tests:

  • Imaging

X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs can check the structure of your airway for problems, such as a deviated septum.

  • Sleep study

It is an overnight test to check for problems with breathing while sleeping. Sleep studies may sometimes be done at home.

In some severe cases, the patient may need to stay overnight at a clinic or sleep center to conduct an in-depth analysis of the breathing during sleep. It is called a polysomnography. In a polysomnography, the patient is connected to many sensors and observed overnight.


The treatment will depend on the cause of the snoring. Common treatment options include:

  • Behavioral changes. For all levels of snoring, the doctor may first recommend lifestyle changes, including losing weight, changing sleeping positions, avoiding alcohol and smoking, treating nasal congestion, and changing medications that may cause snoring.
  • Oral appliances. Oral appliances are form-fitting dental mouthpieces that help advance the position of the jaw, tongue and soft palate to keep the air passage open.
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). It involves wearing a mask over your nose or mouth while you sleep. CPAP can help eliminate snoring and is most often used to treat snoring associated with obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Nasal devices and medications. For patients with narrow nasal passages, snoring can be alleviated with nasal devices or medications, such as nasal sprays, nasal saline irrigation spray, nasal steroid sprays and nasal decongestants.
  • Surgical treatment. Surgery generally focuses on the nasal passages, palate and uvula, and tongue. For instance, laser surgery can shorten your soft palate and remove your uvula; septoplasty can tighten and trim excess tissue in your airways, especially for a severely deviated septum.

Keywords: Snoring.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.