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Snoring is a sound generated during sleep by vibration of loose tissue in the upper airway.


Snoring is one symptom of a group of disorders known as sleep disordered breathing. It occurs when the soft palate, uvula, tongue, tonsils, and/or muscles in the back of the throat rub against each other and generate a vibrating sound during sleep. Twenty percent of all adults are chronic snorers, and 45% of normal adults snore occasionally. As people grow older, their chance of snoring increases. Approximately half of all individuals over 60 snore regularly.
In some cases, snoring is a symptom of a more serious disorder called obstructed sleep apnea (OSA). OSA occurs when part of the airway is closed off (usually at the back of the throat) while a person is trying to inhale during sleep, and breathing stops for more than 10 seconds before resuming again. These breathless episodes can occur as many as several hundred times a night.
People with OSA almost always snore heavily, because the same narrowing of the airway that causes snoring can also cause OSA. Snoring may actually attribute to OSA as well, because the vibration of the throat tissues which occurs in snoring can cause the tissue to swell.
Snoring is associated with physical problems as well as social stress. People who do not suffer from OSA may be diagnosed with socially unacceptable snoring (SUS), which refers to snoring that is loud enough to prevent the sleeper's bed partner or roommate from sleeping. SUS is a factor in the breakup of some marriages and other long-term relationships. Moreover, a study published in 2002 indicates that people who snore are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Snoring appears to be a risk factor that is independent of body weight or a family history of diabetes.

Causes and symptoms

There are several major causes of snoring, including:
  • Excessively relaxed throat muscles. Alcohol, drugs, and sedatives can cause the throat muscles to become lax, and/or the tongue to pull back into the airway.
  • Large uvula. The piece of tissue that hangs from the back of the throat is called the uvula. Individuals with a large or longer than average uvula can suffer from snoring when the uvula vibrates in the airway.
  • Large tonsils and/or adenoids. The tonsils (tissue at the back of either side of the throat) can also vibrate if they are larger than normal, as can the adenoids.
  • Excessive weight. Overweight people are more likely to snore. This is frequently caused by the extra throat and neck tissue they are carrying around.
  • Nasal congestion. Colds and allergies can plug the nose, creating a vacuum in the throat that results in snoring as airflow increases.
  • Cysts and tumors. Cysts and/or tumors of the throat can trigger snoring.
  • Structural problems of the nose. A deviated septum or other nasal problems can also cause snoring.


A patient interview, and possibly an interview with the patient's spouse or anyone else in the household who has witnessed the snoring, is usually enough for a diagnosis of snoring. A medical history that includes questions about alcohol or tranquilizer use; past ear, nose, and throat problems; and the pattern and degree of snoring will be completed, and a physical exam will be performed to determine the cause of the problem. This will typically include examination of the throat to look for narrowing, obstruction, or malformations. If the snoring is suspected to be a symptom of a more serious disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea, the patient will require further testing. This testing is called a polysomnography study, and is conducted during an overnight stay in a specialized sleep laboratory. The polysomnography study include measurements of heart rate, airflow at the mouth and nose, respiratory effort, sleep stage (light sleep, deep sleep, dream sleep, etc.), and oxygen level in the blood.
In some cases the patient may be referred to a dentist or orthodontist for evaluation of the jaw structure and dentition.
In addition, the patient may be examined by sleep endoscopy. In this procedure, the patient is given a medication (midazolam) to induce sleep. His or her throat and nasal passages are then examined with a flexible laryngoscope. In many cases, sleep endoscopy reveals obstructions that are not apparent during a standard physical examination of the throat. Many patients are found to have obstructions at more than one level in their breathing passages.


Several surgical procedures are available for treating chronic snoring. These include:
  • Uvulopalathopharyngoplasty (UPPP), a surgical procedure which involves removing excess throat tissues (e.g., tonsils, parts of the soft palate) to expand the airway.
  • Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) uses a surgical laser to remove part of the uvula and palate.
  • Palatal stiffening is a minimally-invasive surgical technique where a laser or a cauterizer is used to produce scar tissue in the soft palate in order to stop the vibrations that produce snoring.
  • Radiofrequency ablation is another technique which uses scarring to shrink the uvula and/or soft palate. A needle electrode is used to shrink and scar the mouth and throat tissues.

Alternative treatment

There are a number of remedies for snoring, but few are proven clinically effective. Popular treatments include:
  • Mechanical devices. Many splints, braces, and other devices are available which reposition the nose, jaw, and/or mouth in order to clear the airways. Other devices are designed to wake an individual when snoring occurs. Patients should consult a dentist or orthodontist about these devices, as most require custom fitting. In addition, persons with certain types of gum disease or dental problems should not be fitted with oral appliances to stop snoring.
  • Nasal strips. Nasal strips that attach like an adhesive bandage to the bridge of the nose are available at most drugstores, and can help stop snoring in some individuals by opening the nasal passages.
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Some chronic snorers find relief by sleeping with a nasal mask which provides air pressure to the throat.
  • Decongestants. Snoring caused by nasal congestion may be successfully treated with decongestants. Some effective herbal remedies that clear the nasal passages include golden rod (Solidago virgauria) and golden seal (Hydrastis canadensis). Steam inhalation of essential oils of eucalyptus blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) or peppermint (Mentha x piperata) can also relieve congestion.
  • Weight loss. Snoring thought to be caused by excessive weight may be curtailed by a sensible weight loss and exercise program.
  • Sleep position. Snoring usually worsens when an individual sleeps on his or her back, so sleeping on one's side may alleviate the problem. Those who have difficulty staying in a side sleeping position may find sleeping with pillows behind them helps them maintain the position longer. Other devices include a new vest designed to prevent the sleeper from lying on his or her back.
  • Bed adjustments. For some people, raising the head of the bed solves their snoring problem. A slight incline can prevent the tongue from retracting into the back of the throat. Bricks, wooden blocks, or specially designed wedges can be used to elevate the head of the bed approximately 4-l6 in (10-41 cm).
Alternative treatments that have been reported to be effective for patients whose snoring is caused by colds or allergies include acupuncture, homeopathy, and aromatherapy treatments. Aromatherapy treatments for snoring typically make use of marjoram oil, which is thought to be particularly effective in clearing the nasal passages.


Adults with a history of snoring may be able to prevent snoring episodes with the following measures:
  • avoid alcohol and sedatives before bedtime
  • remove allergens from the bedroom
  • use a decongestant before bed
  • sleep on the side, not the back

Key terms

Ablation — The removal of abnormal tissue growths by surgery.
Cauterize — To seal tissue or blood vessels using a heat or electrical source.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) — A ventilation device that blows a gentle stream of air into the nose during sleep to keep the airway open.
Deviated septum — A hole or perforation in the septum, the wall that divides the two nasal cavities.
Endoscope — A slender optical instrument that allows a doctor to examine the inside of the throat or other hollow organ. Sleep endoscopy is a technique that allows the doctor to detect previously unsuspected obstructions in the patient's nose and throat.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) — A potentially life-threatening condition characterized by episodes of breathing cessation during sleep alternating with snoring or disordered breathing. The low levels of oxygen in the blood of patients with OSA may eventually cause heart problems or stroke.
Polysomnography — A technique for diagnosing sleep disorders with the use of a machine that records the pulse, breathing rate and other variables while the patient sleeps.
Soft palate — The structure at the roof of the mouth that separates the mouth and the pharynx.



Beers, Mark H., MD, and Robert Berkow, MD., editors. "Disorders of the Oral Region." Section 9, Chapter 105 In The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories, 2004.
Beers, Mark H., MD, and Robert Berkow, MD., editors. "Sleep Disorders." Section 14, Chapter 173 In The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories, 2004.
Pelletier, Kenneth R., MD. The Best Alternative Medicine, Part I, Chapter 5, "Acupuncture," and Chapter 8, "Homeopathy." New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.


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American Academy of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, Inc. One Prince Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-3357. (703) 836-4444.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). One Westbrook Corporate Center, Suite 920, Westchester, IL 60154. (708) 492-0930.
American Dental Association. 211 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611. (312) 440-2500.
American Sleep Apnea Association. Wake-Up Call: The Wellness Letter for Snoring and Apnea. 1424 K Street NW, Suite 302, Washington, DC 20005. (202) 293-3650.
National Sleep Foundation. 1522 K Street, NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20005.


American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA). Considering Surgery for Snoring? 〈〉.
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Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


breathing during sleep accompanied by harsh sounds, occurring when inhaled air causes the soft palate to vibrate. This is common among persons who sleep with their mouths open. Called also stertor.

Although snoring is a sign of sound sleep, it is sometimes desirable to reduce or eliminate it. If the mouth breathing is stopped, the snoring will also stop. An obvious reason for mouth breathing is lying on the back, in which position the mouth tends to hang open. Further, when a person is in deep sleep and lying on the back, the tongue may rest back in the throat, partly blocking the air passage and helping to make the snoring sounds. Gently rolling the snorer onto the side can sometimes eliminate the snoring in these cases.

Snoring may be an indication of obstructive sleep apnea. Other functional reasons for snoring include a common cold or allergy, causing mucus to stop up the nose. Growths, called polyps, may obstruct the nasal passages. A deformity of the nasal septum (the bony portion dividing the nasal cavity into two compartments) may make nose breathing difficult. Correction of sleeping habits and of nose or throat troubles may lessen snoring. However, there is little that can be done to change the sleeping habits of an elderly person who has been snoring regularly for many years.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.
Harsh buzzing noise produced by a sleeper, produced primarily with inspiration due to vibration of the soft palate and pillars of oropharyngeal inlet; snoring increases with age, affecting 60% of men, 40% of women. Many snorers have incomplete obstruction of upper airways, and may develop obstructive sleep apnea
Associations Alcoholism, arthritis, asthma, cerebrovasular events, coronary ischaemia, daytime drowsiness, depression, diabetes, hypertension, insomnia, obesity
Management Isolated snoring needs no treatment; it may be decreased with a nasal dilator, or surgery to tighten redundant soft palate
Segen's Medical Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.


A noise caused by vibration of the soft palate and other soft tissue in the upper airway by turbulent air flow. Snoring occurs during sleep usually when the mouth is open and is thus commonest when the snorer is lying on the back or when the nose is blocked. Snoring is never heard by the person causing the sound. Snoring may be treated by oral appliances to advance the mandible, by surgical palatoplasty or by hypnotherapy.
Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005

Patient discussion about snoring

Q. In what way snoring is related to ADHD? My 5 year old son snores at night. He has disturbed sleep too and as a result the very next morning he remains sleepy for the day. This makes him tired and he is showing the signs of denial to go to school and make excuses. I have taken him to the doctor for the snoring problem. After some rounds of check up and some tests and with the help of a psychologist he was confirmed for ADHD. In what way snoring is related to ADHD?

A. Sleep apnea (while asleep the person stop breathing occasionally) in children has been linked to growth problems, ADHD, poor school performance, learning difficulties, bedwetting, and high blood pressure. it is a serious matter, if you did a sleep study - it probably shown up if he has it. not all children that snores have sleep apnea.

More discussions about snoring
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References in periodicals archive ?
How your mouth looks like surprisingly can cause snoring. The people with a lower, thicker or softer palate may have narrow airways that contributes to noisy breathing.
The aging process can lead to a relaxation of the throat muscles, resulting in snoring. Furthermore, the NSF says anatomical abnormalities of the nose and throat, illness and other factors may also contribute to snoring.
Some people who snore tend to sleep on their back which can make snoring worse, so turn your partner on their side instead.
"We found that although no difference in snoring intensity was found between genders, women tend to under-report the fact that they snore and to underestimate the loudness of their snoring," said Nimrod Maimon, Professor at Soroka University Medical Centre in Israel.
According to the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association, 41.5% of the UK adult population snore, and 58% of these are between 50-59 years of age.
5 PILE UP THE PILLOWS "IF you sleep with a snorer, get them to use an extra pillow for elevation, which can reduce snoring," says Stephanie.
While there are several symptoms of OSA - such as gasping during sleep, waking with a dry mouth, morning headache and irritability - loud snoring is a common sign.
The findings showed that children are at a two per cent higher risk of snoring for every cigarette smoke in home daily.
Snoring happens because these parts of your body relax and narrow when you're asleep, and your breath comes up against a blockage or obstruction.
The SnoreCare Nose Vents helps get rid of snoring by gently widening the nasal passages to improve breathing.