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Last full review/revision May 2020| Content last modified May 2020
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What is snoring?

Snoring is breathing with a snorting, raspy sound while asleep.

  • Snoring is common, especially in older people

  • Snoring can be loud and may keep those near you awake

  • You may not be aware that you snore

  • Snoring can cause poor sleep at night and a lot of sleepiness during the day (excessive daytime sleepiness)

  • Losing weight and not drinking alcohol near bedtime can help prevent snoring

  • Snoring can be treated with various devices that can be worn or, rarely, with surgery to keep your breathing passages open

When should I see a doctor about my snoring?

See a doctor if you snore and have any of these warning signs:

  • Periods of not breathing or choking during sleep—usually a bed partner or family member notices this

  • Headaches when you wake up in the morning

  • Extreme sleepiness during the day

  • Obesity

  • Very loud, constant snoring

  • Sometimes, high blood pressure

If you don’t have warning signs, you probably don’t need to see a doctor unless your snoring bothers others.

What causes snoring?

Snoring happens when soft tissues in your nose and throat flutter as you breathe. The relaxation of your muscles during sleep probably allows the tissue to flutter.

Sometimes, snoring is caused by breathing problems such as obstructive sleep apnea. Apnea is a pause in your breathing during sleep caused by your throat or airway closing.

You're more likely to snore if you:

  • Are older than 50

  • Are male

  • Are obese (especially if there's fat around your neck or belly)

  • Drink alcohol or take sedatives

  • Have had a stuffy nose for a long time

Snoring tends to run in families.

What will happen at my doctor's visit?

Doctors will ask about your symptoms and do an exam. If they think you may have sleep apnea, they may do:

  • A sleep test

In a sleep test, doctors monitor your breathing and other things related to sleep. This test takes place while you're sleeping. It may be done overnight in a sleep laboratory or at home.

How do doctors treat snoring?

If a problem such as sleep apnea is causing your snoring, doctors will treat that.

If you have sleep apnea, doctors may:

  • Fit you with a special mouth guard to keep your airway open

  • Have you use a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine to keep your airway open while sleeping—you breathe in through a mask

  • Do surgery to reshape your airway or take out tissues (such as large tonsils) that block breathing

If there's no underlying problem causing your snoring, it may help to:

  • Avoid alcohol or medicines that make you sleepy for several hours before bedtime

  • Sleep on your side or with your upper body raised (either by raising the head of your bed or using a wedge-shaped pillow)

  • Lose weight

  • Take decongestants or put elastic strips on your nose to keep your nose open

Family members, bed partners, or roommates bothered by snoring may want to:

  • Use earplugs

  • Play a white-noise machine

  • Sleep in another room

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