Snoring is the hoarse or harsh sound that occurs when your breathing is partially obstructed in some way while you’re sleeping. Sometimes snoring may indicate a serious health condition. In addition, snoring can be a nuisance to your partner. As many as half of adults snore sometimes. Snoring occurs when air flows past relaxed tissues in your throat, causing the tissues to vibrate as you breathe, which creates those irritating sounds. Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol close to bedtime or sleeping on your side, can help stop snoring. In addition, medical devices and surgery are available that may reduce disruptive snoring. However, these aren’t suitable or necessary for everyone who snores.
Depending on the cause of your snoring, your symptoms may include:
See your doctor if:
These may indicate your snoring is caused by a more serious condition, such as obstructive sleep apnea.
If your child snores, ask your pediatrician about it. Children can have obstructive sleep apnea too. Nose and throat problems — such as enlarged tonsils — and obesity often can narrow a child’s airway, which can lead to your child developing sleep apnea. Treating these conditions may help your child in many ways.
Many factors, such as the anatomy of your mouth and sinuses, alcohol consumption, allergies, a cold, and your weight, can lead to snoring.
When you doze off and progress from a light sleep to a deep sleep, the muscles in the roof of your mouth (soft palate), tongue and throat relax. The tissues in your throat can relax enough that they partially block your airway and vibrate. And, the more narrowed your airway, the more forceful the airflow becomes. This causes tissue vibration to increase, which causes your snoring to grow louder.
The following conditions can affect the airway and cause snoring:
Sleep apnea often is characterized by loud snoring followed by periods of silence when breathing stops or nearly stops. Eventually, this reduction or pause in breathing may signal you to wake up, and you may awaken with a loud snort or gasping sound. You may sleep lightly due to disrupted sleep. This pattern of breathing pauses may be repeated many times during the night.
People with sleep apnea usually experience periods when breathing slows or stops at least five times during every hour of sleep.
To diagnose your condition, your doctor will review your signs and symptoms, and your medical history. Your doctor will also perform a physical examination.
Your doctor may ask your partner some questions about when and how you snore to help assess the severity of the problem. If your child snores, you’ll be asked about the severity of your child’s snoring.
Your doctor may request an imaging test, such as an X-ray, a computerized tomography scan or magnetic resonance imaging, to check the structure of your airway for problems, such as a deviated septum.
To treat your condition, your doctor likely will first recommend lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol close to bedtime and changing sleeping positions. If lifestyle changes don’t eliminate snoring, your doctor may suggest:
If you choose to use an oral appliance, visit your dental specialist at least once every six months during the first year, and then at least annually after that, to have the fit checked and to make sure that your condition isn’t worsening. Excessive salivation, dry mouth, jaw pain and facial discomfort are possible side effects from wearing these devices.
Although CPAP is the most reliable method of treating obstructive sleep apnea, and it’s effective, some people find it uncomfortable or have trouble adjusting to the noise or feel of the machine. Your doctor may be able to make adjustments to the device if you’re having trouble adjusting to the machine, such as adding a heated humidifier or nasal pillows, that might help make you more comfortable.
Laser surgery and palatal implants aren’t generally recommended as treatment for sleep apnea, because they haven’t been proved effective for sleep apnea. Possible risks from these procedures include pain, infection, bleeding and nasal congestion.
To prevent or quiet snoring, try these tips:
Don’t use an oral or spray decongestant for more than three days in a row for acute congestion unless directed to do so by your doctor. Long-term use of these medications can have a rebound effect and make your congestion worse. Ask your doctor about a prescription steroid spray if you have chronic congestion.
To correct a structural defect in your airway, such as a deviated septum, you may need surgery.
Sedatives and alcohol depress your central nervous system, causing excessive relaxation of muscles, including the tissues in your throat.