Snoring is a loud, hoarse, or harsh breathing sound that occurs during sleep. Snoring is common in adults, and may indicate a serious health condition. In addition, snoring can be a nuisance to your partner.
Sometimes snoring can be a sign of a sleep disorder called sleep apnea. This means you have periods in which you completely or partly stop breathing for more than 10 seconds while you sleep.
The episode is followed by a sudden snort or gasp when you start breathing again. Then you start to snore again. If you have sleep apnea, this cycle usually happens many times a night. Sleep apnea is not as common as snoring.
In most people, the reason for snoring is not known. Some possible causes include:
- Being overweight -- the extra neck tissue puts pressure on the airways
- Swelling of the tissue during the last month of pregnancy
- Blockage in the nose caused by a crooked, bent, or deformed nasal septum (the structure that separates the nostrils)
- Nasal polyps
- Stuffed nose from a cold or allergies, especially if it lasts a long time
Changes in the mouth and throat, such as:
- Swelling in the roof of the mouth (soft palate) or the uvula, the piece of tissue that hangs down in the back of the mouth. These areas may also be longer than normal.
- Swollen adenoids and tonsils that block the airways
- Poor muscle tone
- A large area at the base of the tongue, or a tongue that is large compared to the mouth
- Abnormalities in the bones of the face
The following tips may help reduce snoring:
- Avoid alcohol and other sedatives at bedtime.
- Don't sleep flat on your back. Sleep on your side, if possible. Some doctors even suggest sewing a golf or tennis ball into the back of your night clothes. This causes discomfort if you roll over and helps reminds you to stay on your side. Eventually, sleeping on your side becomes a habit and you don't need to be reminded.
- Lose weight, if you are overweight.
- Try over-the-counter, drug-free nasal strips that help widen the nostrils. (These are not treatments for sleep apnea.)
Additional Treatment Options
- Surgery to cure snoring may be an option in cases of very severe snoring when other treatments have failed.
- Oral appliances are form-fitting dental mouthpieces that help advance the position of your jaw, tongue and soft palate to keep your air passage open and can be constructed by a dentist experienced in treatment of snoring and sleep apnea.
- Sometimes the use of a CPAP (a continuous positive airway pressure appliance which blows room air into the back of the throat thus preventing it from collapse) may be prescribed.