Snoring occurs when something restricts the airflow in the mouth or nose during sleep. Keep reading this article to know this condition in detail.
Snoring is a common condition. Anybody can snore at some point in life. For example, while some individuals breathe heavily while sleeping, others make a soft whistling sound. Snoring occurs when air cannot flow easily through the nose or mouth. Snoring can disrupt sleep quality and be a nuisance for the bed partner.
Is Snoring Ever Normal?
Almost everyone snores now and then, but it can be a chronic problem for some people. Snoring does not necessarily mean a medical condition but can sometimes indicate a serious sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is described by loud snoring followed by a few seconds of quietness due to a pause in breathing.
How Common Is the Problem?
As many as 45 % of individuals snore sometimes, and 25 % snore almost all the time. Men, especially those above 50 years, overweight or obese, are more likely to snore than women.
If the airway is restricted, tissues such as the soft palate, tonsils, adenoids, and tongue vibrate against each other as one forces air through the mouth or nose. These vibrations produce a rumbling, rattling noise.
Several factors and conditions can block airflow. Here are some of them:
Alcohol and other sedatives can relax the throat and tongue muscles, restricting airflow and contributing to snoring noises.
Bulky soft tissue, like enlarged adenoids, tonsils, or tongue.
Certain seasonal allergies or sinus infections can make some individuals' noses stuffy and cause them to snore.
Being overweight can lead to the narrowing of the air passages. That is why people who are overweight tend to snore.
Pregnancy hormones can cause inflammation in the nose.
Poor muscle tone and muscle weakness in the nose, tongue, or throat. Nose, throat, and tongue muscles can be too relaxed, which causes them to collapse into the airway.
Deviated nasal septum (when the thin wall that divides one nostril from the other is off-center) or nasal polyps (a painless non-cancerous growth on the nose lining or sinuses) can also obstruct the airways.
Structural differences in the nose, mouth, or throat decrease the size of the airway.
Sleeping on the back can make one snore. Sleeping on a pillow that is too soft or too large can also be one of the factors for snoring.
The throat muscles might relax too much if a person is not getting enough sleep.
Snoring sounds can range from quiet whistles or vibrations to loud grumbling, snorting, or rumbling. Snoring is frequently associated with a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea. Not everyone who snores has this condition, but if any of the following symptoms accompany snoring, it can be a hint to see a healthcare provider for evaluation.
Excessive daytime sleepiness.
Breathing pauses during sleep.
Difficulty concentrating and moodiness.
Sore throat upon awakening.
High blood pressure.
Chest pain at night.
Gasping or choking at night.
In children, behavioral issues, poor attention, or poor performance in school can cause snoring.
Snoring can sometimes be more than just a nuisance to the bed partner. Apart from disrupting the bed partner's sleep, if snoring is associated with obstructive sleep apnoea, it can cause problems, including:
Poor night's sleep can make one feel sleepy during the day, interfering with the quality of life.
Frequent frustration or anger.
High blood pressure, stroke, and heart conditions.
Children with obstructive sleep apnea have a high risk of behavior problems, like aggression or learning difficulties.
Frequent waking from sleep.
Waking up several times at night disrupts the pattern of sleep.
The healthcare provider reviews the signs, symptoms, and medical history to diagnose the condition. The provider can also perform a physical examination to look for the things blocking the airways, such as chronic nasal congestion due to rhinitis, sinusitis, deviated septum, or swollen tonsils. Additionally, the provider might ask your partner questions about when and how you snore to help evaluate the severity of the problem.
They may also order some tests, including:
Imaging Test: The provider may recommend an imaging test, such as an X-ray, a computerized tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These imaging tests help check the structure of the airway for problems like a deviated septum.
Sleep Study: The provider may order a sleep study called a polysomnogram to evaluate sleep patterns. One can do a sleep study at home or may need to spend the night in a sleep center to undergo an in-depth analysis of breathing during sleep. A sleep study assesses:
Brain wave activity.
Heart rate and oxygen levels.
Eye, arm, or leg movements during sleep.
Sleep cycles and snoring.
The provider recommends treatments for improving the posture or opening the airways during sleep. Remedies for snoring include:
Avoid drinking alcohol before bed.
Changing the sleep position. Sleep on the side rather than on the back.
Maintaining a healthy weight.
Establish regular sleeping patterns, like, try going to bed at the same time every night.
Improve eating habits.
Avoiding sleep deprivation.
Use nasal strips. These flexible bands stick to the outside of your nose, which helps keep nasal passages open.
Wear an oral appliance when sleeping to keep your jaw in the proper position so air can flow. Mouth devices or mouth guards are such oral appliances.
Medications: For mild cases of snoring due to swelling of the lining of the nose, the provider may prescribe a steroid nasal spray to take before going to sleep. Cold and allergy medications alleviate nasal congestion and help in breathing freely.
Surgical procedures or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) may be prescribed for severe cases of snoring due to sleep apnea.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or CPAP: This is the most effective and reliable treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea that involves wearing a mask over the nose or mouth during sleep. This mask delivers pressurized air from a small bedside pump to the airway to keep it open during sleep. CPAP stops snoring and is commonly used to treat snoring when associated with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).
Surgical Treatments: In some cases, snoring and sleep-disordered breathing are treated with surgery to shrink or remove extra tissue or correct a structural problem.
Laser-Assisted Uvulapalatoplasty (LAUP): It reduces tissue in the soft palate and enhances airflow.
Septoplasty: This approach straightens a deviated nasal septum. It improves airflow through the nose by reshaping the bone and cartilage.
Radiofrequency Ablation: This minimally invasive technique utilizes radiofrequency energy to shrink excess tissue in the tongue and soft palate.
Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy: The surgery involves removing the excess tissue from the back of the throat (tonsillectomy) or the back of the nose (adenoidectomy).
Snoring can be annoying and disruptive. Sometimes it can also be a symptom of a larger underlying medical problem. Talk to a healthcare provider if snoring lasts longer than a few nights or is very loud. Long-term snoring can cause serious health issues, including heart attack, stroke, and other health problems. Snoring can be reduced by staying healthy and active, losing weight, avoiding alcohol, and adopting other lifestyle changes. Discuss with a healthcare provider the available treatments to help one breathe easier, sleep better, and feel more rested.
Last reviewed at:
07 Oct 2022 - 5 min read
Query: Hello doctor, I am a 22-year-old man. I have suffered for two years with chronic, nearly debilitating fatigue. Doctors initially suspected a vitamin deficiency or autoimmune illnesses as the cause, but all tests came back negative or normal. However, when I started this summer to notice myself waki... Read Full »
Article Overview: Gestational diabetes is when the blood sugar level is high in a pregnant woman. Learn about its causes, symptoms, risk factors, and complications. Read Article
What Is Gestational Diabetes? The type of diabetes that affects pregnant women is called gestational diabetes. It affects how the cells use glucose in the body. It also results in hypertension (high blood pressure), which can affect the health of the mother and her baby. Most pregnant women can cont... Read Article
Query: Hello doctor, I had a sore throat and fever four months ago. I took some antibiotics (Cebosh) referred by an ENT and the sore throat went away. But I have a constant nasal dripping and throat clearing since then somedays it is more and some days it is normal. I can see mucus in my throat and it loo... Read Full »
Most Popular Articles
Do you have a question on Obstructive Sleep Apnea or Deviated Nasal Septum?Ask a Doctor Online