Understanding Snoring -- the Basics

What Is Snoring?

Snoring occurs when there is obstruction to flow of air through the passages at the back of the mouth and nose. It's very common, and although it can be noisy for people living with you, it's usually not a serious problem.

The sound is produced by vibration of the soft tissues of the upper airways during sleep. The soft palate (the soft part of the roof of your mouth) and the attached uvula often are the structures that vibrate usually during inspiration. 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 enlarged tonsils, chronic nasal congestion, or deviated nasal septum

Obstructive sleep apnea is a potentially 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 have this condition and need treatment such as 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 Nayana Ambardekar, MD on January 24, 2020



American Academy of Otolaryngology: "Snoring."

MedlinePlus: "Snoring."

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