Snoring is the vibration of respiratory structures and the sound resulting from the obstructed air movement during breathing while sleeping. The sound may be soft, but in other cases, it can be rather loud and quite unpleasant.

Snoring is a symptom of a narrow or closed airway that can be caused by a number of things including:

  • Large tonsils or adenoids
  • A large base of the tongue
  • A large soft palate
  • Polyps, or bumps, in the nasal passages or septum
  • A deviated septum, which is when the inner part of the nose is crooked
  • Allergies

Some people snore only when they sleep on their backs. Others snore regardless of the position they sleep in. Snoring can be more severe after drinking alcohol or taking sedatives.

As much as 15 percent of the population snores.

There are a number of things that can help relieve snoring:

  • Weight Loss — If you are overweight, losing weight may help.
  • Surgery — There are many surgical procedures available to treat snoring and sleep apnea. These surgeries involve cutting or manipulating the upper airway, including the throat, tongue, jaw and nose.
  • Laser Surgery — This treatment requires four to five outpatient visits with an otolaryngologist, or ear, nose and throat surgeon, who aims a laser in your throat and lasers away excess tissue.
  • Somnoplasty — This procedure involves putting a needle into the tissue and turning on microwaves at the end of the needle to burn the tissue from the inside.
  • Dental Devices — A dentist specializing in dental devices for snoring can fit you with a dental guard that can either hold your jaw forward, or pull your tongue out to allow for more space in your airway.
  • Positional Training — If you snore only when on your back, then you can train yourself to sleep only on your sides.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Snoring can be a symptom of a serious sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when the airway becomes so narrow that it blocks your breathing. This can cause you to suffocate while asleep, and not realize it. With obstructive sleep apnea, your sleep becomes lighter and fragmented. The apneas can occur one after another, lasting for up to one minute or more.

If sleep apnea goes untreated, it can cause other serious disorders, such as heart disease and high blood pressure. It also can leave you feeling so tired during the day that you may fall asleep while driving.

If your snoring makes you tired or someone has noticed that you sometimes stop breathing when you snore, you should see a sleep specialist for diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea.