Understanding Snoring -- the Basics

What Is Snoring?

Snoring happens when something is blocking the airways, anywhere between the tip of the nose to the lungs. It's very common, and although it can be noisy for people living with you, it's usually not a serious problem.

One of the most common causes of snoring is when your soft palate (the soft part of the roof of your mouth) vibrates as you're breathing in. It can happen when the muscles that keep the airways open become too relaxed or there is too much tissue nearby, curbing air flow.

You are more likely to snore if you're overweight and if you:

  • Drink alcohol
  • Smoke
  • Take medications such as sleeping pills, cold medicines, or antihistamines
  • Sleep on your back
  • Sleep on a pillow that's too soft or too large
  • Have a condition, like asthma, that tightens your airways
  • Have enlarged tonsils

Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious condition that's linked to snoring. If you have sleep apnea, you briefly stop breathing during sleep several times a night.

Sleep apnea can make you tired, give you headaches, and is linked to other serious conditions including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

If you think you have sleep apnea, ask your doctor for a referral to a sleep lab, where they can check to see if you need a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine to help you breathe steadily while you sleep. If you're overweight, losing extra pounds may help, too.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on March 23, 2015



American Academy of Otolaryngology: "Snoring."

MedlinePlus: "Snoring."

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