Snoring may not always be a sign of a serious medical condition, but in many cases it could be a sign of other sleep disorders or some other minor or major health condition. Snoring is common but more prevalent in men than women.

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To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Health Ear, Nose & Throat team at 513-475-8400.

If a sleep medicine physician has diagnosed you with obstructive sleep apnea, our ear, nose and throat experts can discover the causes and treat the underlying condition behind your sleep disorder. As the first in Greater Cincinnati to offer an implantable hypoglossal cranial nerve stimulator, our subspecialists are at the forefront of new treatments for sleep apnea.

To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Health Snoring & Obstructive Sleep Apnea team at 513-475-8400.

About This Condition

Understanding Snoring

What is snoring?

Some people breathe heavily when they sleep. Others make a soft whistling sound, and still others snore loudly.

Snoring doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a medical condition, but it can sometimes be a sign of a serious sleep disorder, including sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is characterized by loud snoring followed by a few seconds of quiet because of a pause in breathing. This is followed by another loud sound, like a snort, then the snoring resumes.

Snoring is common—as many as 45% of people snore sometimes, and 25% snore almost all the time. Men tend to snore more often than women.

What causes snoring?

t's often hard to tell why one person snores and another one doesn't. These are common causes of snoring:

  • Later stages of pregnancy.

  • Irregularly shaped bones in the face.

  • Swelling of the tonsils and adenoids.

  • Alcohol consumption.

  • Antihistamine or sleeping pill use.

  • Large base of the tongue or unusually large tongue and small mouth.

  • Congestion from allergies or a cold.

  • Overweight.

  • Swollen areas inside the mouth (including the uvula and soft palate).

Snoring by itself — when it's not a symptom of a medical problem like sleep apnea — may not pose any physical risk. But it can cause problems when sleeping in a room with your spouse or bed partner. Snoring can affect your partner's sleep and trigger a number of problems caused by sleep deficiency.

What are the symptoms of snoring?

People who snore make a vibrating, rattling, noisy sound while breathing during sleep. It may be a symptom of sleep apnea. Other symptoms of sleep apnea may include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness.

  • Morning headaches.

  • Recent weight gain.

  • Awakening in the morning not feeling rested.

  • Awaking at night feeling confused.

  • Change in your level of attention, concentration, or memory.

  • Observed pauses in breathing during sleep.

How is snoring diagnosed?

A doctor may run a few tests or do a sleep study to diagnose the significance of snoring, particularly if he or she suspects sleep apnea. An ear nose and throat specialist (otolaryngologist) may examine your throat and neck and the inside of your mouth to diagnose the cause of snoring.

To find out if your snoring could be caused by a health problem, a doctor may ask questions about:

  • Volume and frequency of your snoring.

  • Sleep positions that make your snoring worse.

  • Problems from affected sleep, including feeling sleepy during the day or trouble with memory or concentration.

  • Any history that you have temporarily stopped breathing during sleep.

How is snoring treated?

If your snoring is affecting your sleep (or your partner's), your doctor may fit you with a dental device to keep your tongue from blocking your airway. Losing weight can also help treat snoring. Some people may need surgery to correct a blockage in the airway that's causing the snoring.

If sleep apnea is the cause of your snoring, you may need to sleep in a mask connected to a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device. This device helps minimize snoring and maintain breathing while you sleep.

What are the complications of snoring?

Snoring can affect your sleep, leaving you dragging the next day. Sleep apnea can be a dangerous condition. In sleep apnea, you stop breathing for at least 10 seconds per episode and have on average more than 5 episodes per hour at night. Sleep apnea and inadequate sleep can make it hard for you to think clearly and complete daily responsibilities. If you have sleep apnea that goes untreated, long-term complications can include an enlarged heart and high blood pressure.

Can snoring be prevented?

Preparations before bedtime and a few changes to your sleep style can help prevent or reduce snoring. Try these tips:

  • Use nasal strips (without medicine) that let more air into the nostrils.

  • Don't drink alcohol or take a sedative just before bedtime.

  • Maintain a healthy weight; work to drop excess pounds.

  • Sleep on your side instead of on your back.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Sleep apnea can be serious. Your doctor should evaluate any snoring that causes daytime sleepiness or that affects your ability to think clearly. If your partner hears you stop breathing during the night, call your doctor to see if sleep apnea is to blame.

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