Diseases & Conditions

What is Snoring

Snoring is a sound produced by vibrations of upper airway soft tissue while you are asleep. 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. When you breathe in, it will vibrate and make a noise. The narrower it is, the more easily it will vibrate and the louder you will snore.

How common is snoring?

Snoring is more common in men, though many women snore as well. It appears to run in families and becomes more common as you get older. About 40 percent of adult men and 24 percent of adult women are habitual snorers. Men become less likely to snore after the age of 70. Occasional snoring is almost universal. About 15% of people snore on most nights. 

What are the causes of snoring?

There is no single cause for snoring. Snoring can happen if you have a problem which causes narrowing of your airways in your nose, mouth or throat. For example:

  • Large tonsils
  • Soft fleshy swellings in your nose, called nasal polyps.
  • A deviated nasal septum. This occurs when the dividing tissue between the two sides of your nose is not straight. This may happens after an injury to the nose.
  • Hay fever, cold or an allergy giving you extra mucus and congestion in your nose.
  • An unusually shaped mouth, nose or jaw.
  • An enlarged thyroid gland in your neck.
  • Acromegaly. This is a rare condition where your body makes too much growth hormone. This can cause the tissues in yourhead and face to become larger or thicker.

You are also more likely to snore if you:

  • Are obese or pregnant
  • Smoke
  • Drink a lot of alcohol
  • Take medications which make you sleepy (sedatives)
  • Sleep on your back

How does it affect you?

Snoring can be a nuisance to your partner and anyone else nearby. You may even snore loudly enough to wake yourself up. Though, in many cases, people do not realize that they snore. Snoring can also cause you to have a dry mouth or sore or irritated throat when you wake up.

Habitual snorers can be at risk for serious health problems, including obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea creates several problems, including:

  • Interruptions of breathing, lasting from a few seconds to minutes, during sleep caused by partial or total obstruction or blockage of the airway.
  • Frequent waking from sleep, even though you may not realize it.
  • Light sleeping. Waking up many times during the night interferes with the normal pattern of sleep causing more time to be spent in light sleep than in more restorative, deep sleep.
  • Strain on the heart. Prolonged suffering from obstructive sleep apnea often results in higher blood pressure and may cause enlargement of the heart, with higher risks of heart attack and stroke. 
  • Poor night's sleep. This leads to drowsiness during the day and can interfere with your quality of life and increase risk for car accidents. 

Snoring can be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea but not everyone who snores has the sleep disorder. 

Do I need any tests?

If your snoring isn't troubling you or anybody else, you do not need to see a doctor.

You should see your doctor if:

  • You wake up gasping in the night regularly.
  • Your partner says you stop breathing during the night.
  • You are feeling tired or sleepy during the day.
  • Your snoring is affecting your partner or your relationship.

Usually no tests are needed. However, you may need:

  • A blood test to check your thyroid hormone levels if your doctor thinks this may be relevant.
  • A sleep test called Polysomnography, if your doctor thinks you may have obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Referral to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist for an examination of your nose or throat. This is recommended if your doctor suspects a blockage. The ENT specialist can look at your airway with a tube passed into your nose while you are either sedated or put to sleep.

What can I do to stop snoring?

There are lots of remedies available for snoring. There is no one single treatment that will work for everyone. Which treatment will work for you may depend on the cause of your snoring. 

Below are some of the treatment options:

Non-surgical treatments

a. Lifestyle modification

  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol before going to bed.
  • Avoid medications which may make you more sleep
  • Avoid sleeping on your back. You can use tennis balls sewn to your T-shirts, or by using wedges or pillows to prevent you rolling to your back.

b. Devices and medications

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device if you are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Dental appliances, such as Mandibular Advancement Device and Vestibular Guard. These devices are fit inside your mouth before going to sleep which create more space in the airways.
  • Nasal steroids and other allergy treatments.

Surgical treatments

a. Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy

Tonsil and/or adenoids are removed from the back of the throat and nose. This treatment is most commonly used for children and is used in some select adult patients.

b. Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)

Often prescribed for patients who have moderate or severe obstructive sleep apnea. This treatment tightens and rearranges redundant tissues in the throat and palate.

c. Laser-assisted uvula palatoplasty (LAUP)

A laser procedure that removes an airway obstruction. This treatment is performed under local anesthesia in a doctor's office and is intended for snorers and for cases of mild obstructive sleep apnea.

d. Somnoplasty

A minimally invasive procedure that uses radiofrequency energy to shrink excessive tissue in the palate, uvula and tongue tissue. This treatment can also be used to relieve nasal obstruction.

e. Genioglossal, hyoid, or maxillomandibular advancement

Surgical treatments for sleep apnea that position the tongue forward to keep the lower throat from collapsing during sleep.

f. Hypoglossal nerve stimulation

Involves placement of a device similar to a cardiac pacemaker that synchronizes tongue movement with breathing. This gently moves the tongue forward to keep the lower throat from collapsing during sleep.

g. Septoplasty and turbinate surgery

Reduces the resistance to the flow of air through the nose.

© Copyright 2017 Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. All rights reserved.

This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, part of Mubadala Healthcare, and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

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