Snoring – The Causes, Dangers, & Treatment Options | Sleep Foundation (2022)

Snoring is estimated to affect 57% of men and 40% of women in the United States. It even occurs in up to 27% of children.

These statistics demonstrate snoring is widespread, but its severity and health implications can vary. Snoring can be light, occasional, and unconcerning, or it may be the sign of a serious underlying sleep-related breathing disorder.

Knowing the basics about snoring — what causes it, when it’s dangerous, how to treat it, and how to cope with it — can facilitate better health and eliminate a common cause of sleep complaints.

Best Products for Snoring and Sleep

Best At-Home Snoring Test: Watch Pat

Best Anti-Snoring Mouthpiece: SnoreRx Plus

Best CPAP Machine: ResMed AirSense 10 AutoSet Card-to-Cloud CPAP Machine

Best Pillow for Snoring: Saatva Latex Pillow

What Causes Snoring?

Snoring is caused by the rattling and vibration of tissues near the airway in the back of the throat. During sleep, the muscles loosen, narrowing the airway, and as we inhale and exhale, the moving air causes the tissue to flutter and make noise like a flag in a breeze.

Some people are more prone to snoring because of the size and shape of the muscle and tissues in their neck. In other cases, excess relaxing of the tissue or narrowing of the airway can lead to snoring. Examples of risk factors that contribute to a higher risk of snoring include:

  • Obesity
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Use of sedative medications
  • Chronic nasal congestion
  • Large tonsils, tongue, or soft palate
  • Deviated septum or nasal polyps
  • Jaw that is small or set-back
  • Pregnancy

Though people of any age, including children, can snore, it is more common in older people. Men snore more often than women.

(Video) A Simple Fix For Snoring And Sleep Apnea

What’s the Difference Between Snoring and Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a breathing disorder in which the airway gets blocked or collapsed during sleep, causing repeated lapses in breath.

Snoring is one of the most common symptoms of OSA, but not all people who snore have OSA. OSA-related snoring tends to be loud and sound as if a person is choking, snorting, or gasping.

OSA disturbs sleep and often disrupts the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body. More mild snoring, often called primary snoring, occurs frequently but doesn’t provoke these other effects.

Is Snoring Dangerous?

Whether snoring is dangerous depends on its type, severity, and frequency.

  • Light, infrequent snoring is normal and doesn’t require medical testing or treatment. Its main impact is on a bed partner or roommate who may be bothered by the occasional noise.
  • Primary snoring occurs more than three nights per week. Because of its frequency, it is more disruptive to bed partners; however, it is not usually seen as a health concern unless there are signs of sleep disruptions or sleep apnea, in which case diagnostic tests may be necessary.
  • OSA-associated snoring is more worrisome from a health perspective. If OSA goes without treatment, it can have major implications for a person’s sleep and overall health. Unchecked OSA is associated with dangerous daytime drowsiness, and serious health conditions including cardiovascular issues, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and depression.

When Should You See a Doctor About Snoring?

Many instances of snoring are benign, but it’s important to talk with a doctor if there are signs of potential sleep apnea:

  • Snoring that occurs three or more times per week
  • Very loud or bothersome snoring
  • Snoring with gasping, choking, or snorting sounds
  • Obesity or recent weight gain
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Lack of focus or mental sharpness
  • Morning headaches and congestion
  • High blood pressure
  • Nighttime teeth grinding (bruxism)
  • Frequent nighttime urination (nocturia)

If you have noticed any of these signs, it’s important to address the issue with a doctor who can determine if additional testing or treatment is necessary.

How Do I Know if I’m Snoring When I Sleep Alone?

Unless someone else tells them, most people who snore aren’t aware of it, and this is part of why sleep apnea is underdiagnosed.

If you sleep alone, your best bet is to set up a recording device. It could be an old-school tape recorder or one of many smartphone apps, but the apps have the advantage of analyzing sound patterns for you to detect likely episodes of snoring. It’s best to record for multiple nights since snoring may not occur every night. That being said, apps do not aid in the diagnosis of OSA.

If recording isn’t in the cards, be on the lookout for other red flags related to disrupted sleep such as noticeable daytime sleepiness, fatigue, problems with attention or thinking, or unexplained mood changes.

What Treatments Can Help Stop Snoring?

Treatment depends on the nature of the snoring and the types of problems it causes.

For people with infrequent or primary snoring, treatment may not be necessary unless it is disturbing a person’s sleep or the sleep of someone they live with. In those cases, treatments tend to be simpler and less invasive. People with sleep apnea usually need more involved treatment.

Types of treatments include lifestyle changes, anti-snoring mouthpieces, mouth exercises, continuous, auto, or bi-level positive airway pressure (CPAP, APAP, or BiPAP) devices, and surgery. A person’s physician is in the best position to describe pros and cons of any treatment in their specific case.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes can help stop snoring, and in some cases, other treatments may not be necessary. Even when other treatments are prescribed, lifestyle changes are often still recommended. Examples of these changes include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese are critical risk factors for snoring and sleep apnea, so keeping a healthy weight can be an important step against snoring.
  • Limiting use of alcohol and sedatives: Alcohol is a frequent promoter of snoring, and sedative medications can trigger snoring as well.
  • Adjusting your sleeping position: Sleeping on your back makes it easier for your airway to become obstructed. It may take time to get used to a different position, but it can be a helpful change. Specialty devices may help, or some experts recommend sewing a tennis ball into the back of a shirt so that you can’t revert to sleeping on your back.
  • Raising the head of your bed: Elevating the top part of your bed with risers, a wedge pillow, or an adjustable frame may reduce snoring. For this to work, it’s important to raise the whole mattress and not just use more pillows.
  • Reducing nasal congestion: Taking steps to eliminate allergies or other sources of nasal congestion can combat snoring. Breathing strips that go over the nose may help open your nasal passages during the night, as well as internal nasal expanders.

Anti-Snoring Mouthpieces

An anti-snoring mouthpiece helps hold your tongue or jaw in a stable position so that it can’t block your airway while you sleep. There are two main types of anti-snoring mouthpieces.

  • Mandibular Advancement Devices: These work by holding the lower jaw forward. Many are adjustable so that you can find a more comfortable and effective fit.
  • Tongue Retaining Devices: These mouthpieces help hold the tongue in place so that it doesn’t slide back toward your throat.

CPAP is still considered the gold standard treatment for sleep apnea. However, while some people can wear a CPAP comfortably, others find the apparatus bothersome, especially if the machine is loud, or if the mask fits poorly. Custom-fitted oral appliances are often a good alternative for OSA patients who cannot tolerate CPAP. Mandibular advancement devices, specifically, have been shown to be effective with not only snoring, but in mild to moderate OSA as well.

Mouth Exercises

Slackening of the muscles around the airway makes it more likely for a person to snore. Exercises to strengthen the mouth, tongue, and throat can counteract this, building muscle tone to reduce snoring.

(Video) How To Stop Snoring

Anti-snoring mouth exercises have shown most effectiveness in people with mild snoring and usually must be completed daily over a period of two or three months.

Positive Airway Pressure Devices

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines are one of the most common treatments for sleep apnea in adults. They pump air through a hose and a mask and into the airway, preventing it from being obstructed. Bi-PAP machines are similar but have different pressure levels for inhaling and exhaling. APAP machines are “smart” machines that vary the pressure as needed.

CPAP, BiPAP and APAP machines are often effective in resolving sleep apnea and associated snoring. You need a prescription to get these devices, and they must be calibrated to suit your breathing. For that reason, it is important to work with a sleep technician to get started with a PAP device.

Wearing a PAP mask may be uncomfortable at first, but most people get used to it and find that using the device noticeably reduces snoring and improves sleep.

Surgery

In adults, surgery is rarely the first-line treatment for snoring or sleep apnea, but it may be an option if other approaches are not effective.

One type of surgery, called uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, widens the airway by removing nearby tissue. Surgery can also address nasal polyps, a deviated septum, or other blockages of the nasal passages.

Other types of less-invasive surgeries have been developed, but to date there is limited evidence from clinical trials regarding their benefits and downsides.

One of the biggest impacts of snoring is on another person who shares a bed or bedroom with the snorer. Chronic snoring may interrupt their sleep and potentially create tension in the household.

Stopping snoring is obviously the most immediate solution, but it’s not always easily achieved. In that case, using earplugs may help a bed partner cope with snoring. A white noise machine, white noise app, or even a fan may help drown out the sound of mild snoring.

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About Our Editorial Team

Snoring – The Causes, Dangers, & Treatment Options | Sleep Foundation (3)
Eric Suni

Staff Writer

Eric Suni has over a decade of experience as a science writer and was previously an information specialist for the National Cancer Institute.

Snoring – The Causes, Dangers, & Treatment Options | Sleep Foundation (4)
Kent Smith

Dentist, Sleep Apnea Expert

Dr. Smith is board-certified in dental sleep medicine and has over 20 years of experience in the treatment of sleep breathing disorders.

(Video) Snoring: Understanding the Causes, Misconceptions, and Treatments

References

+10 Sources

See More

(Video) Obstructive Sleep Apnea - Mayo Clinic

FAQs

What is the root cause of snoring? ›

Snoring can be caused by a number of factors, such as the anatomy of your mouth and sinuses, alcohol consumption, allergies, a cold, and your weight. 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.

How can I stop snoring permanently? ›

To prevent or quiet snoring, try these tips:
  1. If you're overweight, lose weight. ...
  2. Sleep on your side. ...
  3. Raise the head of your bed. ...
  4. Nasal strips or an external nasal dilator. ...
  5. Treat nasal congestion or obstruction. ...
  6. Limit or avoid alcohol and sedatives. ...
  7. Quit smoking. ...
  8. Get enough sleep.
22 Dec 2017

What is the biggest risk factor for snoring? ›

The highest number of habitual snorers is in the age category 50-59 years. Individuals who snore often have other major risk factors such as body mass index (BMI), the neck circumference, and smoking ten or more cigarettes a day.

What simple juices stop snoring? ›

Anti-Snoring Juice - Tested & Reviewed - YouTube

Is it normal to snore every night? ›

An estimated 45 percent of adults snore occasionally, while 25 percent snore regularly—often disturbing their bed partner's slumber and possibly their own, too. You're more likely to snore if you're overweight, are a middle-aged or older man, or are a postmenopausal woman. These night noises seem to worsen with age.

What can I drink to stop snoring? ›

Drinking ginger and honey tea twice a day is perfect to get rid of the problem of snoring. Having strong aromatic foods like garlic, onion and horseradish prevent drying of the nose and reduce congestion. A study also claims that these food products also decrease swelling in the tonsils and prevent sleep apnea.

What doctor do you see for snoring? ›

An ear nose and throat specialist (otolaryngologist) may examine your throat and neck and the inside of your mouth to diagnose the cause of snoring. To find out if your snoring could be caused by a health problem, a doctor may ask questions about: Volume and frequency of your snoring.

Is there any medicine to stop snoring? ›

If you have nasal congestion, you can try clearing your nasal passages or using medicines such as decongestants and nasal corticosteroid sprays. These open the airway, permitting a smoother airflow. They may reduce snoring.

How do you sleep with someone who snores? ›

  1. Wear Foam Earplugs. A relatively cheap solution could be foam earplugs. ...
  2. Listen to a white noise machine. There are many different white noise machines on the market. ...
  3. Distract your ears. ...
  4. Sleep in another room. ...
  5. Wear sleep headphones. ...
  6. Get to sleep first. ...
  7. Buy them an anti-snore pillow. ...
  8. Tape a tennis ball to their pyjamas.

What pillow helps with snoring? ›

The Best Pillows for Snoring
  • Best Overall - Saatva Latex Pillow.
  • Best Value - Sijo FluffBase Eucalyptus Pillow.
  • Best for Side Sleepers - Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow.
  • Most Comfortable - Layla Kapok Pillow.
  • Best Neck Support - Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Neck Pillow.
  • Best Wedge Pillow - Helix Wedge Pillow.
5 Oct 2022

What causes snoring and how can it be stopped? ›

Snoring can be caused by the mouth falling open during sleep, and this device encourages a person to breathe through their nose, which may prevent snoring. Blocked or narrow airways may also cause snoring, and a nasal dilator or strip can help. They are designed to keep a person's nose open while they sleep.

Is snoring a symptom of heart problems? ›

Snoring is not necessarily a sign of heart failure. It can, however, be a sign of sleep apnea. Since sleep apnea can lead to heart failure and other serious conditions, it's important to determine the underlying cause of snoring, especially if it's chronic and loud.

What is the difference between snoring and sleep apnea? ›

In other words, sleep apnea is paused breathing during sleep, and snoring is the noise caused by vibrations in the airway during sleep. So, patients with OSA snore, but not all snorers have OSA.

Does snoring affect your heart? ›

Heavy snoring can sound funny to your sleep partner, but the condition is no joke. Snoring is often the sign of a condition called obstructive sleep apnea, which raises the risk for diabetes, obesity, hypertension, stroke, heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

What foods make snoring worse? ›

The biggest dietary issue that impacts snoring is dairy. Dairy consumption causes the body to produce mucus, which in turn contributes to snoring. Mucous buildup can narrow and block the sinuses or drip down into the back of the throat, causing irritation.

What foods to avoid to stop snoring? ›

The Worst Foods for Snoring

So stay away from cheese, milk, ice cream, yogurt and butter before bedtime. Meat: Red meat, poultry, and especially pork can all cause people to snore because the high protein content triggers phlegm production.

How does honey stop snoring? ›

Olive Oil and honey

They also lubricate the throat and reduce snoring. Method: Take half a teaspoon of honey and half a teaspoon of olive oil. Mix it properly and drink it before going to bed. You can also add a tablespoon of honey to a glass of water and drink it before bed.

What causes snoring and how can it be stopped? ›

Snoring can be caused by the mouth falling open during sleep, and this device encourages a person to breathe through their nose, which may prevent snoring. Blocked or narrow airways may also cause snoring, and a nasal dilator or strip can help. They are designed to keep a person's nose open while they sleep.

Is snoring unhealthy? ›

Snoring on its own is usually considered a harmless – albeit highly disruptive – phenomenon, but for some people it indicates a more serious underlying medical condition or sleep disorder.

Do skinny people snore? ›

Being overweight increases fat around the neck, compressing and narrowing the throat. But thin people do snore too, and many who are overweight do not.

What is the difference between snoring and sleep apnea? ›

In other words, sleep apnea is paused breathing during sleep, and snoring is the noise caused by vibrations in the airway during sleep. So, patients with OSA snore, but not all snorers have OSA.

Videos

1. Evidence-Based Interventions: snoring surgery in the absence of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)
(NHS England )
2. Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea 6: Tongue Region Surgery
(Eric J. Kezirian, MD, MPH)
3. New Sleep Apnea Solution?
(The Doctors)
4. Yes, ‘mouth taping’ is a real home remedy for sleep-related issues
(VERIFY)
5. Why Do People Snore | EXPLAINED
(Snooze Insider)
6. New treatment for snoring in Manhattan
(KSNT News)

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