Snoring sounds like noisy breathing that occurs during sleep. It’s a very common issue. In fact, around 25% of people are habitual snorers.
Men snore more than women—four out of every ten men snore, compared to roughly three out of ten women. Sometimes snoring is harmless, but it can be an indication of a health problem that requires attention.
Snoring has many causes, including obesity and anatomical variations affecting the upper airways. It results from the vibration of soft tissues of the upper airways and often is associated with obstruction (blockage) of airflow.
Factors that commonly contribute to snoring:
- Snoring is worsened by alcohol and other sedatives.
- Overweight people are more prone to snoring.
- Sleeping on your back increases the chances of snoring.
- Colds, nasal polyps, and allergies make snoring worse.
- Older people often snore due to the muscular weakness that occurs with age.
- Certain medications may cause dryness or minor irritation of the nasal passageways and increase the incidence of snoring.
- A larger-than-usual uvula can limit airflow and cause snoring.
- Injuries to the nose that result in a deviated septum may result in snoring.
- Smokers are more likely to snore.
Men are more likely than women to snore due to the different muscle structure in the neck and throat, as well as hormonal factors.
Sometimes, people who snore also have sleep apnea. Apnea refers to periods of interrupted breathing that can last for up to ten seconds or longer. During an episode of apnea, the muscles relax so much they cause complete obstruction of the airway.
When sleep apnea occurs, carbon dioxide accumulates and oxygen levels fall in the bloodstream for just a few seconds. The brain detects these changes and reacts by waking you up so that you can resume your normal breathing. These episodes can occur many times throughout the night, disrupting normal restorative sleep.
Clues that your snoring is more than just a nuisance include feeling sleepy during the day or having frequent headaches. But sometimes this problem is only identified after an overnight sleep study.
Many people try at-home strategies to help reduce snoring.
Some tips include:
- Losing weight if you are overweight
- Avoid alcohol and heavy foods before bedtime
- Quit smoking
- Try raising your head by putting pillows under it.
- Sleep on your side. Some people sew a tennis ball on the back of their pajamas to help them avoid turning onto their back.
- Blow your nose before going to bed
Over-the-counter strips that are placed over the nose may help if your snoring is caused by nasal stuffiness. Breathe Right Nasal Strips and Theravent are two common brands.
And sometimes, nasal decongestants are a good solution for nasal stuffiness, although many people want to try a non-medicated option first.
Nasal strips and decongestants will not help if your snoring is caused by a problem in your throat area and not in your nose.
If the simple self-help ideas don’t work, you may need to see your doctor. They might recommend that you try an oral appliance that helps to keep your airway open. Other treatment options, such as nasal sprays, may also be considered. Surgery could be performed if your snoring is caused by a deviated septum or enlarged tonsils or adenoids.