Snoring

Snoring is a loud or harsh sound while you breathe during your sleep. It's generally harmless, but if you have other symptoms, it could be the sign of an underlying condition.

Key points about snoring

  1. Snoring can happen to anyone at any age but it most commonly affects people aged between 40–60.
  2. Snoring can disturb the sleep of someone next to you, so see your GP or doctor if it's causing problems in your relationship.
  3. Also see your GP or doctor if you have other symptoms such as waking in the middle of the night gasping for air, making choking noises while you are asleep, stopping breathing while sleeping or feeling sleepy during the day.
  4. Treatment depends on the cause of your snoring. 
  5. There are lifestyle changes you can make to help reduce or stop snoring. 

What are the causes of snoring?

Snoring is caused by the vibration of your tongue, mouth, throat or airways in your nose when you are breathing. This happens as these parts of your airway relax and narrow when you are asleep. 

You are more likely to snore if you:

  • sleep on your back
  • are overweight and obese
  • are drunk 
  • take sleeping pills
  • are a smoker
  • have a low soft palate
  • have big tonsils or adenoids.

How is snoring diagnosed?

You don't usually need to see a doctor for snoring. See your GP or doctor if:

  • your snoring is affecting you and your partner's life and relationship
  • you wake up in the middle of the night regularly to gasp for air
  • you stop breathing or make choking noises during the night and feel sleepy during the day – this could be something more serious, eg, obstructive sleep apnoea

Your GP or doctor will ask you questions related to your symptoms and examine you, especially your nose, mouth, throat and neck. Your GP may refer you to an ear, nose and throat specialist for further tests.   

Also see your doctor if your child snores regularly. Although noisy breathing during sleep is common in children, it may be a sign that your child is having difficulty breathing. Habitual snoring in children has been associated with behavioural problems and poor academic performance. Read more about snoring in children.

How is snoring treated?

Treatment depends on the cause of your snoring. There are specific treatment or devices available for specific causes of snoring.

  • A mandibular advancement device can help to bring your tongue forward if your tongue is thought to be blocking the back of your throat while you sleep.
  • Chin straps can hold your mouth closed when you sleep to help you breathe through your nose if your snoring is caused by you breathing through your mouth. 
  • A nasal device can help hold your nose open while you sleep or nasal sprays can help reduce swelling and congestion inside your nose if you have blocked or narrow airways.

Surgery is only recommended rarely to treat snoring if other treatments don't work. Talk to your GP or doctor to find out the best treatment options for you. 

How can I prevent snoring?

Lifestyle changes can help stop or reduce snoring. These include:

  • sleeping on your side, or sewing a sock onto the back of your pyjamas and putting a tennis ball inside it to encourage lying on your side
  • exercising regularly
  • losing weight if you are overweight or obese
  • avoiding caffeine and alcohol immediately before going to bed
  • practising good sleep hygiene
  • quitting smoking
  • avoiding the use of sleeping tablets
  • avoiding large meals just before bedtime. 

Read more about tips to reduce snoring

Learn more

Snoring Patient Info, UK
Snoring NHS, UK

References

  1. Snoring Auckland Regional HealthPathways, NZ, 2017
  2. Snoring Patient Info, UK

Reviewed by

Dan Ford is the Director and Principal Sleep Psychologist at The Better Sleep Clinic. He is a New Zealand-registered psychologist and specialises in treating insomnia, behavioural sleep disorders and co-occurring mental health issues.
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Dan Ford, Behavioural Sleep Psychologist, Auckland Last reviewed: 04 Dec 2020