Snoring is a common condition that can affect anyone but occurs more frequently in men and people who are overweight. Snoring tends to worsen with age. Occasional snoring is usually not serious. However, if you are a habitual snorer, you not only disrupt the sleep patterns of those close to you, but you also impair your sleep quality. Medical assistance is often needed for habitual snorers to get a good night's sleep.
Snoring occurs when the flow of air through the mouth and nose is physically obstructed. Airflow can be obstructed by a combination of factors including:
- Obstructed nasal airways: Some people snore only during allergy seasons or when they have a sinus infection. Deformities of the nose such as a deviated septum or nasal polyps can also cause obstruction.
- Poor muscle tone in the throat and tongue: Throat and tongue muscles can be too relaxed which allows them to collapse and fall back into the airway. This can result from deep sleep, alcohol consumption, or use of some sleeping pills. Normal aging causes further relaxation of these muscles.
- Bulky throat tissue: Being overweight can cause bulky throat tissue. Also, children with large tonsils and adenoids often snore.¹
- Long soft palate or uvula: A long soft palate or a long uvula (the dangling tissue in the back of the mouth) can narrow the opening from the nose to the throat. When these structures vibrate and bump against one another, the airway becomes obstructed and causes snoring.²
Snoring is a very treatable disorder. There are hundreds of products, exercises, medical devices, drugs, and surgeries that claim to treat snoring. In many cases, simple lifestyle changes can help stop snoring. In other cases, options may include:
- A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device or BiPAP (bilevel positive airway pressure) device is a mask-like device that you wear at night to maintain air pressure in your nose and keep airways open.
- Inspire, an implanted device called an upper airway stimulator, consists of a small pulse generator placed under the skin in the upper chest. A wire leading to the lung detects the person's natural breathing pattern. Another wire, leading up to the neck, delivers mild stimulation to nerves that control airway muscles, keeping them open.
- There are a variety of surgeries now available to treat some causes of snoring, including nasal surgeries, uvulectomy, tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, tongue base reduction, and uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP).³
¹ Chopra, Parul. “You Can Stop Snoring.” NDTV, 3/09/2017.
² Snoring and Sleep Apnea, Meritas Health.
³ Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD. “Understanding Snoring - Diagnosis and Treatment.” WebMD, WebMD Medical Reference, 7/28/2021.