What is snoring?

Snoring is noisy breathing during sleep. During normal sleep, throat muscles relax. When air flows past relaxed tissue in your throat, the tissue may vibrate and cause noisy breathing. This noise may be worse if something partly blocks your air passages.

What is the cause?

Some causes of snoring include:

  • Sleeping on your back. Sleeping on your back lets your tongue fall back into your throat. Your tongue then blocks part of your throat and makes a smaller passage for air.
  • Having a blockage in your nose. Your nose can get stuffy from allergies, a cold, or a sinus infection. An injury that changes the shape of your nose or sinuses can also create a blockage. If your adenoids get enlarged, they can block your airway. Adenoids are small glands high in the throat behind your nose and the roof of your mouth. They help your body fight infections.
  • Gaining weight. Gaining a lot of weight can also cause or worsen snoring. Fat tissue can narrow your airway and the weight of your chest can put more pressure on the airways.
  • Using some types of medicine or alcohol. Alcohol and medicines such as sleeping pills, antihistamines, and pain medicine (especially narcotics) relax your muscles and cause your tongue to fall backward. This narrows the airway.
  • Having sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a serious sleep problem. If you have it, you stop breathing for more than 10 seconds at a time many times while you sleep. If you have sleep apnea, your body gets less oxygen when you sleep and you don’t sleep well. Many people who snore do not have sleep apnea, but nearly everyone who has sleep apnea snores.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Making loud noises when you sleep
  • Restless sleep and not feeling rested when you wake up
  • Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat that goes away quickly
  • Feeling tired and sleepy during the day
  • Waking up gasping or choking during the night, which may be a sign of sleep apnea
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Anxiety, irritability, or depression

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. If your provider thinks that you may have sleep apnea, he may suggest that you have a sleep study, where your will sleep overnight at a sleep center. At the sleep center you will have a continuous, all-night recording of your breathing, eye movements, muscle tone, blood oxygen levels, heart rate and rhythm, and brain waves. The study will show if the movement of air slows or stops while you sleep. It will also show how often this happens during sleep.

How is it treated?

Treatment depends on what causes snoring. Treatments may include:

  • Using nasal strips on the bridge of your nose to help keep your nasal passages open during sleep
  • Sleeping on your side or stomach
  • Having no alcohol before bedtime
  • Using decongestants pills or nasal spray to reduce swelling in your nose and sinuses and lessen the amount of mucus. Use decongestants as directed. If you are using a nonprescription nasal-spray decongestant, generally you should not use it for more than 3 days. After 3 days it may make your symptoms worse. Ask your healthcare provider if it is OK for you to use a nasal spray decongestant longer than this.
  • Losing weight if you are overweight
  • Having surgery to remove blockages in your nose or sinuses, or to remove enlarged adenoids

Sleep apnea may be treated with a mouth guard, or with a machine that uses pressure to send air into your nose and throat and helps you breathe better while you sleep. This treatment is called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).

How can I take care of myself?

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. In addition, take care of your health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet and try to keep a healthy weight. If you smoke, try to quit. If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink. Learn ways to manage stress. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.

Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

How can I help prevent snoring?

Sometimes raising the head of the bed or mattress can help prevent snoring. This should be done by making the top of the mattress or bed frame higher than the foot of the bed. Don’t use more pillows. They can bend your neck and block your airway and cause more breathing problems.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-09-03
Last reviewed: 2014-09-04
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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