Snoring is noisy breathing during sleep that happens when tissue vibrates in the upper airway. It is a common problem that affects most people at some time during their lives.
It is often harmless, and it may be relieved through home remedies. If these do not work, treatment may be available. Sometimes snoring is linked to a more serious health problem. If snoring is disruptive, or if there are other symptoms, it is best to see a doctor.
Fast facts about snoring
- Snoring is a common but treatable condition.
- It happens when turbulent air flows through the airway, causing the uvula and soft palate to vibrate.
- Snoring may be related to sleep apnea, which is a symptom of high blood pressure and other conditions.
- Men snore more often than women.
- Some home remedies and exercises can help prevent snoring.
During waking hours, the tissues in the throat and upper airway are open for easy air intake to the lungs.
During sleep, the soft tissues and tongue relax, and can partially block the airway.
If the air coming in and out of the airway meets enough resistance, vibration, or snoring, can occur.
Obesity, smoking, drinking alcohol, or having frequent nasal congestion all increase the risk of habitual snoring. Snoring is thought to affect 44 percent of males and 28 percent of females between the ages of 30 and 60 years.
Snoring can indicate a medical condition such as:
Sleep apnea can cause a kind of snoring where a person may appear to stop breathing for some time between snores, and they may produce choking or gasping sounds.
Apart from loud snoring, sleep apnea can lead to the following symptoms:
- daytime sleepiness
- morning headaches
- difficulty concentrating or remembering things
- low libido, or sex drive
A medical or dental provider may be able to help determine the underlying cause and the appropriate interventions necessary to stop the snoring.
A number of remedies may help with snoring.
1. Avoiding alcohol and sedating medications
Drugs from the depressant or sedative class aim to relax muscles, causing them to collapse. Alcohol acts as a depressant. It should be avoided for at least 4 hours before sleeping. Any prescription or over-the-counter sleep aids should be taken under the guidance of a health care professional.
2. Relieving nasal obstruction
Medicines and other techniques are available can help reduce inflammation.
- nasal strips
- corticosteroid and moisturizing nasal sprays
- a room humidifier
Room humidifiers and other items can be purchased online.
3. Changing sleep positions
Sleeping position can affect the likelihood of snoring. Sleeping on your back can cause the relaxed tongue to block the airway.
Other sleeping positions you can try include:
- sleeping on your side
- raising the head of the bed a few inches
- using a "anti-snore pillow" to improve neck position
Another tip is to sew a tennis ball or other soft object in the back of a person's sleep shirt. This might help prevent rolling over to the back sleeping position.
Anti-snore pillows are available for purchase online.
4. Losing weight
In a person who carries excess weight, fat tissue can surround and narrow the airway, and snoring can result from the obstructed airflow.
Losing weight may reduce the risk of snoring.
5. Oral appliances
A custom-fitted oral appliance, similar to a retainer or mouth guard, may help keep the airway open by moving the tongue and jaw slightly forward.
Appliances are made by a specially trained sleep medicine dentist.
6. Throat exercises
Throat, or oropharyngeal, exercises may help strengthen weak, flabby throat muscles and prevent them from collapsing during sleep.
Try practicing the 10 exercises below at least 30 minutes daily for a minimum of 3 months.
1. Stick your tongue out of your mouth as far as possible, and then move it side to side and up and down without curling the tongue.
2. Move the jaw up and down in a chewing motion for a minute or two at a time. This should be done without anything in your mouth.
3. Say each vowel over and over at least 20 to 30 times right before you go to sleep.
4. Sing "la, la, la, la" moving up and down through different notes and pitches, before moving on to "fa, fa, fa, fa" and finally "ma, ma, ma, ma."
5. Open your mouth as wide as you possibly can and hold it open for around 10 seconds.
6. Push the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth and slide it backward 20 times.
7. Using your index finger, press your cheek muscle away from your teeth 10 times on each side.
8. Close your mouth and purse your lips. Hold for 30 seconds.
9. With mouth open, move jaw to the right and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on left side.
10. Elevate the palate and uvula 20 times.
Exercises need to be practiced consistently to see any results.
7. Quitting smoking
Tobacco smoke is an irritant that can result in tissue inflammation. The upper airway is a narrow passage, so even small amounts of inflammation can restrict airflow.
Quitting smoking can help reduce this inflammation as well as the risk of other diseases and conditions.
8. Following good sleep hygiene practices
Develop a good sleep hygiene program by getting consistent sleep on a comfortable bed, in a dark, cool room. Inadequate sleep has been linked to weight gain and it can lead to snoring.
Some other tips for getting a good night's sleep include:
- following the same routine for going to sleep and waking up, even on the weekend
- using blinds or heavy curtains to keep out the light
- avoiding using a screen or mobile device close to bedtime, and keep all devices outside the room
If snoring is severe or is linked to sleep apea, a doctor may offer treatment.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
For people with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea, treatment includes the delivery of pressurized air through a nasal or face mask.
Severe snoring may benefit from medical attention. If other remedies do not work, there are several surgical procedures that can help reduce snoring.
Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy: This is to remove enlarged tonsils and adenoids.
Pillar procedure: A surgeon inserts small plastic implants in the soft palate to stiffen loose tissue.
Septoplasty: This repairs a deviated nasal septum.
Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP): This removes excess tissue from the soft palate and uvula.
Somnoplasty: This procedure aims to stiffen flabby tissue by applying radiofrequency energy to the base of the tongue.
Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP): A laser is used to shorten the uvula, which is the hanging soft tissue at the back of the throat. The laser also makes small cuts in the soft palate. As the cuts heal, the surrounding tissues stiffen to prevent the vibrations that trigger snoring.
Surgery has a low success rate, and there are potential health risks, so it should only be considered as a last resort.
Snoring can be a sign of a serious medical condition, but it can also be embarrassing and disruptive to the individual, the sleep partner, and other members of the household.
Seeking treatment may be a step in the right direction toward overall good health.
Breathing problems during sleep - such as heavy snoring and sleep apnea - may be associated with earlier decline in memory and thinking skills. This is the finding of a new study published in the journal Neurology.
Are you - or your partner - a chronic snorer? Joining a choir or taking singing lessons could help. A UK study found that a program of vocal exercises designed by a choir director helped reduce snoring.