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Snoring: Why We Do It

Snoring: Why We Do It

Snoring, a common problem among all ages, affects 90 million American adults, 37 million on a regular basis. About 57% of men and 40% of women snore. Snoring noises are produced in the nose and throat during sleep.

Cause (see image below)

  • When we sleep, our throat muscles relax, our tongue falls backward, and our throat narrows

  • As we breathe in and out, the relaxed throat walls vibrate, causing the characteristic sound of snoring

  • The narrower our airway becomes, the greater the vibration and the louder the snoring

  • Apnea, when breathing stops, occurs when the walls of the throat completely collapse

Symptoms associated with snoring

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness

  • Morning headaches

  • Recent weight gain

  • Awakening in the morning not feeling rested

  • Awaking at night feeling confused

  • Waking up frequently

  • Gasping or choking during sleep

  • Change in your level of attention, concentration, or memory

Risk Factors

  • Over 50 years old (about 10% of children snore)

  • Obesity, especially with fat distributed around the neck or between the chest and abdomen (midriff)

  • Use of alcohol or other sedatives

  • Long-term nasal congestion

  • A small jaw or a jaw that is farther back than normal

  • Menopause

  • Male sex

  • Black race

  • Pregnancy

  • Abnormalities that can block airflow, such as large tonsils, a deviated nasal septum, and nasal polyps

  • Heredity


Lifestyle Changes

  • Avoid alcohol, heavy meals, and sedating drugs for several hours before bedtime

  • Sleep with the head elevated

  • Lose weight

  • Treat any nasal congestion recommended by your healthcare provider

  • Establish regular sleeping patterns

  • Sleep on your side rather than your back


  • Mandibular advancement splints: small plastic devices that fit in the mouth like a mouth guard or orthodontic retainer. They work by pushing the lower jaw and tongue forward, helping to keep the airway open during sleep

  • Tongue-retaining devices: use suction to keep the tongue forward

Continuous positive airway pressure (C-PAP)

  • People breathe through a small mask applied to the nose or to the nose and mouth. The mask is attached to a device that supplies air at a pressure that helps prevent the airway from narrowing or collapsing when people breathe in

Surgery: whether and how well these procedures reduce snoring has not been proven:

  • Repair the underlying problem, such as nasal polyps, enlarged tonsils, or deviated septum

  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty: mouth and throat tissues are surgically reshaped. Excess tissue is removed, and the airway is widened

  • Laser-assisted uvuloplasty: a laser is used to reshape tissue

  • Snoreplasty: a substance that irritates the tissues and causes fibrous scar tissue to form is injected into the soft palate (soft tissue behind the roof of the mouth), causing it to become stiffer and less likely to vibrate

  • Radiofrequency ablation: a probe is used to deliver heat into the soft palate, which shrinks and stiffens the tissues

  • Palatal implants: three small implants are surgically placed in the soft palate to stiffen it

Bed partners may benefit from using earplugs or white-noise machines. Alternate sleeping arrangements, such as a separate room, are sometimes necessary.

Consult with your healthcare provider should you or someone you know have questions or concerns about snoring, regardless of the age.

Snoring image.jpg
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