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.

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.

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.

(Video) How To Stop Snoring

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.

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.

(Video) A Simple Fix For Snoring And Sleep Apnea

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.

References

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(Video) Do You Have Sleep Apnea? Here's How to Tell

FAQs

What is the main cause of snoring? ›

Snoring occurs when air flows past relaxed tissues, such as your tongue, soft palate and airway, as you breathe. The sagging tissues narrow your airway, causing these tissues to vibrate.

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 health problems are caused by snoring? ›

Long-term snoring increases the risk of health problems, including:
  • Decreased blood oxygen levels.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Fatigue (feeling very tired during the day).
  • Heart attack.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Stroke.
  • Type 2 diabetes.
7 May 2021

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.

Is snoring a disease? ›

Snoring doesn't necessarily mean that you have a medical condition, but it can sometimes be a sign of a serious sleep disorder, including sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is characterized by loud snoring followed by a few seconds of quiet because of a pause in breathing.

Does stress cause snoring? ›

Stress can have profound effects on the body and lead to snoring. If you've developed a snoring condition, it's important to see a sleep specialist as it may be an underlying health condition.

What to drink to stop snoring? ›

Nettle Leaf Tea Remedy for Snoring. Nettle leaf tea can prove to be one of the best home remedies for snoring of such type. Nettle leaves are a known antihistamine. They may help reduce congestion by inhibiting the release of histamines.

Which is the best anti snoring device? ›

Reviewed & Approved
  • Best Overall: Vosaro Anti-Snoring Chin Strap at Amazon. Jump to Review.
  • Best for the Nose: Breathe Right Lavender Nasal Strips at Amazon. Jump to Review.
  • Best Oral Mouthguard: Snore Rx Stop Snoring Mouthguard at CVS. Jump to Review.
  • Best for Side Sleepers: MedCline Wedge and Body Pillow System at Amazon.
24 May 2022

What is the cause and treatment of snoring? ›

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.

Does snoring affect the brain? ›

Any disruption of breathing during sleep can affect the brain, say researchers of a. They found that people with sleep apnea tended to develop memory problems and other signs of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) earlier than people without such sleep disorders.

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 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.

Can snoring cause a stroke? ›

Two studies have proven the connection between sleep and stroke. The first, published in the Journal of Stroke in 2018, reveals that sleep issues like snoring and apnea can increase the risk for stroke, and the second, published in Scientific Reports, shows that people who've had a stroke sleep less efficiently.

How do you stop someone from snoring so fast? ›

Change their sleeping position.

This is one of the simplest ways to stop someone from snoring without the need to wake them up. To be specific, you have to get the correct sleeping position for your partner so that their breathing is not obstructed during sleep.

What causes snoring in females? ›

Snoring can be caused by a number of things, like oral anatomy, sinus anatomy, allergies, a cold, the person's weight, or even a jaw joint disorder. When a person sleeps, the muscles in the mouth, tongue, and throat relax, and this exacerbates the aforementioned issues to cause snoring.

Is snoring related to mental health? ›

Mental Health Issues

In fact, the link between sleep apnea, snoring, and depression is well established. A recent study of 74 snorers showed that the more daytime sleepiness people report, the greater their chances of also having mild depression or anxiety symptoms.

Can snoring affect your mental health? ›

Poor sleep, caused by snoring yourself or having a partner that snores loudly can also lead to mental health problems such as anxiety or depression. It can also lead to problems with your physical health too.

What foods snore? ›

High Fat Foods and Dairy

Anything with lots of saturated fat, including bacon, steak, cheeseburgers, and cheeses like brie all accelerate mucous production in a big way. If you're going to have these meals, it's best to enjoy them in moderation and time them so you have at least eight hours before sleep.

Can Vicks help you stop snoring? ›

Smearing some Vicks VapoRub on your chest at night will help open your nasal passages too, easing your snoring. More home remedies that will help keep you healthy. If you snore but don't have underlying sinus problems or coughing, you can relieve some of the snoring by wearing an OTC nasal strip, such as Breathe Right.

How does honey stop snoring? ›

Honey also has anti-inflammatory properties and coats the throat, reducing snoring vibrations. Mix one teaspoon of honey in a cup of hot water, or a cup of chamomile or ginger tea, and drink sometime between after dinner and bedtime.

What is the best position to sleep for someone who snores? ›

Side sleeping is the best sleep position for snoring. This is because side sleeping reduces the compression of your airways. Back-sleepers can try a variety of techniques to prompt themselves to sleep in healthier, quieter positions …

What is the best noise to drown out snoring? ›

Playing sounds of nature, like the waves crashing in on the beach, or the trickle of water in a stream may be just enough to block out your partner's snores. Sometimes listening to classical music or a constant drumbeat, for example, will work, and there are lots of sleep apps available on the market.

What foods to avoid for 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.

What herbs stop snoring? ›

Essential oil throat spray for snoring
  • peppermint.
  • lemon.
  • clove.
  • pine.
  • sage.
  • eucalyptus.
  • thyme.
  • lavender.

Does salt water help with snoring? ›

A clogged or narrowed nose because of cold or any other blockage can cause snoring because of fast-moving air. Your nasal passages can open by taking a hot bath before going to bed. Rinsing nose with salt water can help in opening up passages.

Does snoring lead to dementia? ›

A new study on sleep apnea, a nighttime breathing disorder often marked by snoring, underscores how sleep troubles may be linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease. Researchers found that the brains of people with sleep apnea had high levels of beta-amyloid plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

Can snoring lead to depression? ›

Frequent snoring and pauses in breathing are associated with a greater likelihood of depression, according to a study published in April 2012 in the journal Sleep. The risk of depression was significantly higher for people diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea.

Is there a link between snoring and dementia? ›

Mild cognitive impairment often precedes dementia related to Alzheimer's disease. Some researchers believe snoring and sleep apnea may contribute to a buildup of the toxic protein in the brain called beta-amyloid, which is a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

Does high blood pressure cause snoring? ›

Snoring, apnoea, blood pressure and anthropometric dimensions were highly associated. Patients with hypertension had higher levels of snoring and apnoea, as well as indicators of excess weight. Snoring was the most robust predictor of hypertension.

Does high cholesterol make you snore? ›

Self-Reported Snoring Is Associated with Dyslipidemia, High Total Cholesterol, and High Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol in Obesity: A Cross-Sectional Study from a Rural Area of China.

Does snoring mean you stop breathing? ›

With typical snoring, breathing continues uninterrupted. With sleep apnea, though, breathing is repeatedly disrupted, causing multiple partial awakenings. While most snoring is normal and harmless, it is important to be aware of any signs of obstructive sleep apnea and talk about them with your doctor.

How long does the average person snore? ›

On average, Americans snore around 2.65 times a night for a total of 22 minutes, according to data compiled by wellbeing electronics manufacturer Withings. For women, the average is 2.29 times a night with a duration of 17 minutes and 47 seconds, while men average 2.75 times a night for 24 mins and 7 seconds.

Does everyone who snores need a CPAP machine? ›

In fact, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association, about 90 million Americans snore! However, since snoring is a common sign of sleep apnea, it is natural to ask, “Does everyone who snores need sleep apnea treatment in Vero Beach?” The answer to that question is no.

Are there any anti snoring devices that work? ›

Snorers often find relief using mouthpieces designed to reduce snoring. These devices, also called mouthguards, fall into two general categories. Mandibular advancement devices, or MADs, fit inside the mouth and push the lower jaw forward to open up your airway.

Can you train yourself to stop snoring? ›

Based on the existing research, the best bet is to do mouth exercises for at least 10 minutes per day for three months in order to notice a reduction in snoring or OSA. Most people perform the exercises two to three times per day. Most research studies demonstrate benefit after 3 months3 of mouth and throat exercises.

Will I ever stop snoring? ›

A narrow throat, a cleft palate, enlarged adenoids, and other physical attributes that contribute to snoring are often hereditary. Again, while you have no control over your build or gender, you can control your snoring with the right lifestyle changes, bedtime routines, and throat exercises.

Does a higher pillow stop snoring? ›

A doctor can recommend healthful ways to ensure a good night's sleep. Elevating the head using additional pillows may help to open the airways, reducing or eliminating snoring.

Does walking reduce snoring? ›

Short walk before bed

A short, low-intensity walk in the evening can have unexpected benefits for snorers. Exercise is a great step towards combating snoring, but we aren't recommending a massive physical effort here – simply moving around can be advantageous.

Does honey help stop snoring? ›

Snoring causes your throat to swell and honey can help reduce it. Try sweetening your tea with honey before bedtime to relax the muscles in your throat.

What position makes you not snore? ›

Side sleeping is the best sleep position for snoring. This is because side sleeping reduces the compression of your airways. Back-sleepers can try a variety of techniques to prompt themselves to sleep in healthier, quieter positions …

How do you sleep when someone is snoring? ›

Here are seven tips to try.
  1. Don't focus on the sound of snoring. Yes, this may be easier said than done. ...
  2. Wear ear plugs. ...
  3. Listen to music or white noise. ...
  4. Change your partner's position. ...
  5. Encourage your partner to get evaluated. ...
  6. Sleep in a different room.
28 Sept 2020

Videos

1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea - Mayo Clinic
(Mayo Clinic)
2. New Sleep Apnea Solution?
(The Doctors)
3. Throat Exercises for Snoring and Sleep Apnoea (oropharyngeal exercises / myofunctional therapy)
(Vik Veer - ENT Surgeon)
4. To get rid of snoring, do these yogasanas, also get rid of sleep apnea
(IndiaTV)
5. Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Children: When is Snoring a Problem?
(UMMCVideos)
6. Don't sleep on sleep apnea
(Demystifying Medicine McMaster)

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