Sleep Disorders

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Snoring is noisy breathing through the mouth or nose during sleep. Just about everyone snores occasionally. People snore when they are congested. Even a baby or a pet may snore. Snoring is a problem if:

  • you stop breathing during sleep and have to wake up to catch your breath
  • you are disturbing your sleep partner
  • you are losing sleep because of your snoring

Usually snoring causes sleep loss for both the snorer and their sleep partner. The snorer may wake frequently, either from the snoring or from the jostling to stop the snoring. The sleep partner has trouble sleeping deeply because of the snoring noise, plus anxiety about their partner’s health and well-being. This sleep deprivation has consequences during the day: sleepiness, irritability, and lack of productivity.

In addition to problems stemming from sleep deprivation, snoring can cause more serious health problems. Snoring has been linked to increased risk of stroke; diabetes; high blood pressure; and heart disease. Snoring can also be a symptom of sleep apnea.

Relationships often suffer as a result of snoring. The sleep partner of a snorer may resort to sleeping in a separate room, which changes the dynamics of bedtime. Snoring thus affects the physical and social intimacies of a relationship. The snorer feels isolated, and both partners are unhappy.

Treatments for snoring include medical solutions such as surgery and dental devices, as well as self-help remedies.


The constant sleep disruption and excessive tiredness caused by noisy snoring often creates relationship problems. Sleep partners of heavy snorers awaken over twenty times per hour, which severely cuts into the quality and quantity of their sleep. The partner may try to stop the other person’s snoring, or they may simply lie awake wishing they were asleep. Many partners of snorers decide to sleep in separate rooms, and the resulting lack of bedtime chatting and physical intimacy can lead to a strained relationship. The snorer often becomes isolated and frustrated about a problem they seemingly have no control over.

Severe snoring causes sleep deprivation for both the snorer and the sleeping partner. The effects of sleep deprivation are:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • A compromised immune system and slower healing
  • Poor mental and emotional health
  • Lack of smooth functioning of the body
  • Decreased productivity
  • A negative mood
  • Low energy
  • Unclear thinking
  • Slower reaction time

In addition, snoring causes reduced oxygen flow to the brain, which can lead to

  • Premature death
  • Type II diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease

Chronic snorers are often middle-aged and overweight, and snoring may indicate a more serious underlying medical problem. Snoring can also be a symptom of sleep apnea, which is life-threatening. If you are a severe snorer, see a doctor so you can rule out any serious health problems that are a result of or a cause of the snoring.


Sleep and relaxation go hand in hand. During deep sleep, the muscles in the body relax, and as the muscles in the throat relax, the airway partly closes. This is normal. Air comes into and out of the lungs through this airway. However, if the air flow in the throat and nose is obstructed, the air passage is narrowed, which causes snoring.

Snoring is the fluttering sound created by the vibrations of tissues against each other in the back of the throat and nose. The tissues obstructing the airway and vibrating against each other can be the soft palate, the throat, the uvula, the tonsils, or the adenoids. (The soft palate is the soft part of the roof of the mouth.)

Who is likely to snore? Some causes of snoring and risk factors for snoring are below.

Risk Factor Details


You can inherit a narrow throat, which can cause snoring.

Being overweight

Excess weight and fatty tissue in the neck cause your throat to become smaller.

Being middle-aged or beyond

As you age, your throat becomes narrower, and the muscle tone in your throat decreases.

Being male

Men have narrower air passages than do women and are more likely to snore.

A history of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke

Smoking relaxes muscles and also creates nasal and lung congestion. Exposure to secondhand smoke can cause the same snoring problems as smoking does.

Lack of fitness

Poor muscle tone and lax muscles contribute to snoring.

Nasal deformities, such as a deviated septum

Nasal irregularities can cause obstructed breathing.

Enlarged adenoids or tonsils

Larger than usual adenoids or tonsils can cause obstruction of the airway and additional vibration during breathing.

A long soft-palate or uvula

A long soft palate or uvula dangles in the throat and can cause fluttery noises during relaxed breathing.

Alcohol or medications (sleeping pills or antihistamines)

Alcohol and certain medications increase relaxation of throat and tongue muscles, which makes snoring more likely.

Allergies, asthma, a cold, or sinus infections

Such breathing problems cause blockage in your  nasal airways and make inhalation difficult. This in turn creates a vacuum in your throat, and noisy breathing.

Sleeping on your back

Sleeping flat on your back allows the flesh of your throat to relax and block the airway. Moderate snorers tend to snore only when sleeping on their backs.

Sleeping on overly soft pillows

Pillows increase the angle of your neck and can contribute to obstruction of your airway, which causes snoring.


If you suspect that you snore, see a sleep specialist. This doctor will:

  • examine your throat, nose, mouth, palate, and neck,
  • check for underlying health conditions,
  • possibly enroll you in a test at a sleep clinic, where someone can observe your sleep patterns and diagnose your snoring problem, and
  • help you to stop snoring.

You will want to find out why you are snoring. Is it allergies or a cold or a sinus infection? Is it your behaviors before bedtime or during the day? Is it the position you sleep in? Your physician will ask you many questions about your sleep and snoring to be able to diagnose the reason for the snoring. Effective treatment for snoring addresses the exact cause of your snoring.

To get diagnosed for snoring, you can go to:

  • an ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT or otolaryngologist)
  • a sleep clinic, where you will find a number of sleep specialists


Mild snoring that isn't related to sleep apnea responds well to home remedies. Finding a solution to your snoring problem can result in an improved quality of life for you and your loved ones. Try some of the self-help tips below to prevent or alleviate your snoring.

What You Can Do Details

Lose weight

Losing weight will reduce the fatty tissue in your airway. Eating less and improving your fitness level can significantly improve your ability to breathe freely when you sleep.

Sleep on your side

  • Special pillows (commercially available)
  • The tennis ball trick*
  • Wear a backpack with towels in it.

Sleeping on your back may cause the flesh of your throat to relax into your airway, so adjusting your sleeping position can alleviate snoring.

(Changing your sleep position may stop mild snoring, but severe snorers usually snore in any position.)

* The tennis ball trick: Sleep with a tennis ball or other ball attached to the back of your pajama top. (You can sew a pocket or safety-pin a sock to the back of the pajama top, then put a tennis ball in it.) The tennis ball is uncomfortable if you lie on your back, and you will respond by turning on your side. Soon you will develop side-sleeping as a habit and not need the tennis ball.

Sleep without a pillow

Try sleeping without a pillow; pillows can block your airway by bending your neck.

Elevate the head of your bed four inches

(Placing rolled up towels under the head of the mattress is an easy way to change the angle of the mattress.)

Elevation of the head of your bed may make breathing easier and encourage your tongue and jaw to move forward. Elevating the entire head of the bed is better than using a pillow, which can crimp the neck and contribute to snoring.

Eliminate smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke

Stopping smoking can help with the noise and intensity of your snoring. Also, reduce your exposure to secondhand smoke.

Avoid eating food or drinking alcohol before bed

Limit the intake of food or alcohol before bed; do not eat or drink heavily within three hours of your bedtime. These substances relax your muscles and increase the likelihood of snoring.

Avoid high-fat dairy milk products or soy milk products before sleeping

Non-skim milk products and soy milk products, because of their thickness, can keep mucus from draining properly. The result is mucus retained in the throat, which can lead to snoring.

Avoid antihistamines for allergies or stuffiness

Antihistamines relax the throat muscles, which can in turn cause snoring.

Try nasal decongestants to clear your nose passages

Nasal decongestants can help people who are able to breathe through their noses while sleeping. Nose breathing circumvents the snoring sound that comes from breathing through a blocked throat.

Avoid sleeping pills or other sedatives

You may be taking sleeping pills or tranquilizers to help you sleep, but sedatives also relax your neck muscles, which can contribute to snoring.

Learn to play the didgeridoo

Regular playing of the didgeridoo (an Australian wind instrument) improves snoring. Training to play the didgeridoo may decrease the collapsibility of the upper airways.

In addition to the above self-help tips to treat your snoring, you can try various products that have been developed to prevent snoring, such as nasal strips, sprays, and dilators; special pillows; essential oils; and homeopathic products. Approach all such products with caution, as many have not been proven to significantly affect snoring. However, some of these remedies may help you with your snoring.

Medical treatments for snoring

If your own efforts to stop snoring do not help, consult your physician or an otolaryngologist (ENT, or ear, nose, and throat doctor). If you choose to try a dental appliance for your snoring, you will need to see a dentist specializing in these devices. Some medical treatments for snoring are:



Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

To keep your airway open during sleep, a machine at your bedside blows pressurized air into a mask that you wear over your nose or face.

Dental appliances, oral devices, and lower jaw positioners


  • Mandibular Repositioning Device
  • Tongue Retaining Device

A dental device opens your airway by bringing your lower jaw or your tongue forward during sleep.

Most dental devices are acrylic and fit inside your mouth, much like an athletic mouth guard or orthodontic appliance. Some others fit around your head and chin to adjust the position of your lower jaw.

  • Surgery
    Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)
  • Thermal Ablation Palatoplasty (TAP), such as Laser-Assisted Uvula Palatoplasty (LAUP) and somnoplasty (radiofrequency tissue ablation)
  • Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy
  • Soft palate implants (the Pillar Palatal Implant System)

Increases the size of your airway by surgically removing tissues. The surgeon may remove tonsils, adenoids, or excess tissue at the back of the throat or inside the nose. Or the surgeon may reconstruct the jaw.

The surgeon may use a scalpel, a laser, or a microwaving probe (radiofrequency energy).

See your doctor or dentist to discuss the medical treatments available and to decide which might help your snoring.

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