Snoring is the hoarse or harsh sound that occurs when your breathing is obstructed in some way while you're sleeping. Sometimes snoring may indicate a serious health condition. In addition, snoring can be a nuisance to your partner.
As many as half of adults snore at least occasionally. Snoring occurs when air flows past relaxed tissues in your throat, causing the tissues to vibrate as you breathe, which creates those irritating sounds.
Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol close to bedtime or sleeping on your side, can help stop snoring.
In addition, medical devices and surgery are available that may reduce disruptive snoring. However, these aren't suitable or necessary for everyone who snores.
Depending on the cause of your snoring, in addition to the noise caused by snoring, you may also experience:
See your doctor if:
These may indicate your snoring is caused by a more serious condition, such as obstructive sleep apnea.
If your child snores, ask your pediatrician about it. Children can have obstructive sleep apnea too. But, nose and throat problems — such as enlarged tonsils — and obesity often underlie habitual snoring in children. Treating these conditions could help your child sleep better.
There are a variety of factors that can lead to snoring, such as the anatomy of your mouth and sinuses, alcohol consumption, allergies, a cold, and your weight.
When you doze off and progress from a light sleep to a deep sleep, the muscles in the roof of your mouth (soft palate), tongue and throat relax. The tissues in your throat can relax enough that they vibrate and may partially obstruct your airway. And, the more narrowed your airway, the more forceful the airflow becomes. This causes tissue vibration to increase, which makes your snoring grows louder.
The following conditions can affect the airway and cause 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. ...
Risk factors that may contribute to snoring include:
Habitual snoring may be more than just a nuisance. Depending on the cause of your snoring, it may result in:
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to first see your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, you may then be referred to a doctor who specializes in treating sleep disorders or an ear, nose and throat specialist (otolaryngologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to arrive well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor may be limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. For snoring, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
What you can do in the meantime
Tests and diagnosis
Using sensors placed on your head and various parts of your body, polysomnography records your brain waves, blood oxygen level, heart rate and breathing rate, as well as eye and leg movements during sleep.
Sometimes, these tests can be done at home, but the in-center sleep tests tend to be more accurate than those done at home.
Treatments and drugs
Your doctor will likely first recommend lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol close to bedtime and changing sleeping positions. If lifestyle changes don't eliminate snoring, your doctor may suggest:
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
For moderate to severe sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend a common therapy device called a nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. A CPAP machine delivers just enough air ...
Lifestyle and home remedies
To prevent or quiet snoring, try these tips:
Because snoring is such a common problem, there are numerous products available, such as nasal sprays or homeopathic therapies. However, most of the products haven't been proven effective in clinical trials. For example, MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is marketed in a nose drop formula to treat snoring, but there's no evidence it has any effect on snoring.
Therapies that might help ease your snoring include:
Coping and support
If your partner is the one who's snoring, you may sometimes feel frustrated as well as fatigued. Suggest some of the home remedies mentioned, and if those don't help quiet your partner's nocturnal noisemaking, have your partner make a doctor's appointment. In the meantime, earplugs or earphones hooked up to soothing music might help block some of the noise. Or, you could try going to sleep at different times. Maybe if you're already asleep when your partner starts snoring, it might not bother you.
Last Updated: 2010-05-25
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