Key Points about Snoring

  • Snoring can be disruptive for both the person with the condition and their partner.
  • Snoring can be a sign of a more serious underlying health condition, like sleep apnea.
  • Treatment for snoring includes lifestyle modifications, breathing devices during sleep or surgery.

Overview

Snoring occurs when air flows past relaxed tissues in your throat. Snoring can be loud and bothersome to you or your partner, but it can also indicate a potentially serious underlying health condition such as sleep apnea.

Snoring causes 

Snoring can be caused by:

  • Anatomy of your mouth, such as having extra tissue in the back of your throat
  • Chronic nasal congestion
  • Deviated septum (crooked partition between your nostrils)
  • Drinking alcohol before bed
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Sleeping on your back

Snoring risk factors

Factors that put you at an increased risk for snoring include:

Being male

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Drinking alcohol, especially in the evening
  • Having a deviated septum
  • Having a family history of snoring or sleep apnea
  • Having a narrow airway
  • Having chronic nasal congestion
  • Having large tonsils or adenoids

Snoring symptoms

Snoring in and itself is not necessarily dangerous, but it may be a sign of a more serious underlying health condition, such as sleep apnea. You should see a sleep medicine doctor if you experience any of the following signs and symptoms in combination with snoring:

  • Chest pain during the night
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Gasping for air or choking during the night
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Pauses in breathing during sleep (reported by your partner)
  • Restless sleep
  • Snoring so loud that it’s disrupting your partner’s sleep
  • Sore throat when you wake up in the morning
  • Trouble concentrating on tasks during the day
  • Waking up with headaches

Snoring diagnosis

Your specialist will use one or more of the following diagnostic tools to diagnose snoring:

  • Physical exam. Your specialist will complete a physical exam and ask you about your symptoms and history related to snoring.
  • Imaging test. Your sleep specialist may recommend you undergo an imaging test – such as an X-ray – to check your airways for problems or to see if you have a deviated septum or other anatomical problems that may be causing your snoring.
  • Sleep study. Your specialist may recommend you undergo a sleep study at a sleep lab so that you can be closely monitored in your sleep. A sleep study records your brain activity, breathing, heart rate and other body functions while you’re asleep.

Snoring treatment

Your sleep specialist may recommend one or more of the following treatments to help manage your snoring:

  • Lifestyle modifications. Your sleep specialist may recommend you make lifestyle modifications that can help with snoring. These include losing weight, not drinking alcohol close to bedtime, treating your nasal congestion, getting enough sleep and avoid sleeping on your back. 
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. A CPAP is a wearable device that delivers air pressure through a mask while you’re sleeping. 
  • Oral appliance. Your sleep specialist may recommend you try an oral appliance to help keep your throat open while you’re sleeping. You would work with your dentist to be fitted for this type of device.
  • Surgery. If your snoring is severe or other more conservative treatment options haven’t been effective, your sleep specialist may recommend you undergo surgery to correct your condition. This surgical procedure includes opening up your airway to help you breathe easiest during sleep and can reduce snoring.

When should I seek care?

If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing a sleep medicine provider for more specialized treatment.