Snoring is a loud, hoarse, or harsh breathing sound that occurs during sleep.
Snoring is common in adults. It does not necessarily mean that you have a health problem.A doctor (or sleep specialist) can tell if you have sleep apnea by doing a sleep study either at home or in a hospital.Snoring is an important social problem. People who share a bed with someone who snores can develop sleep difficulties.
In most people, the reason for snoring is not known. Some possible causes include:Being overweight -- the extra neck tissue puts pressure on the airwaysSwelling of the tissue during the last month of pregnancyBlockage in the nose caused by a crooked, bent, or deformed nasal septum (the structure that separates the nostrils)Nasal polypsStuffed nose from a cold or allergies, especially if it lasts a long timeChanges in the mouth and throat, such as:Swelling in the roof of the mouth (soft palate) or the uvula, the piece of tissue that hangs down in the back of the mouth. These areas may also be longer than normal.Swollen adenoids and tonsils that block the airwaysPoor muscle toneA large area at the base of the tongue, or a tongue that is large compared to the mouthAbnormalities in the bones of the faceUse of sleeping pills, antihistamines, or alcohol at bedtimeSometimes snoring can be a sign of a sleep disorder called sleep apnea. This means you have periods in which you completely or partly stop breathing for more than 10 seconds while you sleep.The episode is followed by a sudden snort or gasp when you start breathing again. Then you start to snore again. If you have sleep apnea, this cycle usually happens many times a night. Sleep apnea is not as common as snoring.
The following tips may help reduce snoring:Avoid alcohol and other sedatives at bedtime.Don't sleep flat on your back. Sleep on your side, if possible. Some doctors even suggest sewing a golf or tennis ball into the back of your night clothes. This causes discomfort if you roll over and helps reminds you to stay on your side. Eventually, sleeping on your side becomes a habit and you don't need to be reminded.Lose weight, if you are overweight.Try over-the-counter, drug-free nasal strips that help widen the nostrils. (These are not treatments for sleep apnea.)If your doctor has given you a breathing device, use it on a regular basis. Follow your health care provider's advice for treating allergy symptoms.
Call your health care provider if
Talk to your health care provider if you have:A change in your level of attention, concentration, or memoryBeen waking up in the morning not feeling restedEpisodes of no breathing (apnea) -- your partner may need to tell you if you are snoring loudly or making choking and gasping soundsExcessive daytime drowsinessMorning headachesRecent weight gainChildren with chronic snoring should also be tested for apnea. Sleep apnea in children has been linked to growth problems, ADHD, poor school performance, learning difficulties, bedwetting, and high blood pressure. Most children who snore do NOT have apnea, but a sleep study is the only way to tell for sure.
What to expect at your health care provider's office
Your health care provider will ask questions to evaluate your snoring. You will also have a physical exam that focuses on your throat, mouth, and neck.Questions may include the following (some of which your partner might have to answer):Is your snoring loud?Do you snore no matter what position you are lying in, or only in certain positions?Does your own snoring ever wake you up?How often do you snore? Every night?Do you snore throughout the night?Are there episodes when you are not breathing?Do you have other symptoms like daytime drowsiness, morning headaches, insomnia, or memory loss?You may need to be referred to a sleep specialist for sleep studies.Treatment options include:Dental appliances to prevent your tongue from falling backWeight lossIf you have sleep apnea, use of a CPAP mask (a device you wear on the nose while sleeping to decrease snoring and sleep apnea)Surgical procedures on your palateSurgery to correct a deviated septum or remove tonsils (tonsillectomy)Other types of surgery involving the airway
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