Snoring: Symptoms, Causes, and Remedies

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Snoring can be a serious indicator that you're not getting enough air when you sleep. Snoring can be a nuisance to those around you, but it can be a sign of a health condition as well. It's a common problem that has many causes. Snoring can happen to everyone, especially people who sleep on their back. Risk factors of snoring include having nasal issues, being overweight, drinking alcohol, and having a family history of snoring.

People who sleep with a partner will know if they snore, but those who sleep alone will need to look for symptoms. Snoring symptoms include morning headaches, paused breathing during sleeping, sore throat in the morning, and high blood pressure. When untreated, snoring can cause many complications like stroke and heart attack. By working on your snoring, you can improve your health and sleep quality.

What is Snoring?

Snoring is a medical condition characterized by the sound that happens during breathing while sleeping. Snoring occurs because of relaxed throat muscles, narrow airways, and the contact between soft tissues in the mouth or nose.

Those who snore are likely to have flimsy tissue in their throats that vibrate as they inhale and exhale, causing the distinctive snoring sound. The technical term for snoring is “sleep-disordered breathing.”

There are three major types of sleep-disordered breathing: central sleep apnea (CSA), obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and mixed OSA. The effects of snoring include difficulty sleeping, low energy during the day, poor sleep quality or insomnia, and inability to concentrate due to low sleep quality.

Snoring can develop into a serious medical condition, such as heart disease and stroke, and the harms of snoring are more severe if left untreated.

What is the Prevalence of Snoring?

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, snoring afflicts at least 25 million adults in the U.S. Most snoring cases are considered mild, but almost half of the entire snoring population experiences moderate to severe snoring. This means that they find it difficult to sleep at night because of their snoring.

Around 40 percent of men are habitual snorers, while roughly 24 percent of women are snorers. Snoring occurs in 1-5 percent of children and 4 percent of adolescents.

What are the Causes of Snoring?

The causes of snoring are alcohol consumption, obesity, nasal obstruction, a deviated septum, enlarged tonsils or adenoids, a small lower jaw, and sleeping on your back.

  • Alcohol consumption: Alcohol causes the tissues in the throat to relax, which makes it more likely for your airways to collapse when you're sleeping. You're more likely to snore if you drink before bedtime, while avoiding alcohol consumption before bed can reduce the chances of snoring.
  • Obesity: Obesity can cause snoring because the fat tissues around your throat, neck, and mouth can cause improper muscle support. This leads to snoring because the relaxed muscles tend to bend the airway. Extra weight is generally associated with restricted breathing because of reduced lung capacity.
  • Nasal obstruction: When you have nasal problems like a cold or sinus infection, it causes the nasal passages to become blocked or narrowed. This causes your throat tissues to vibrate more as you breathe during sleep, leading to snoring.
  • A deviated septum: A deviated septum is when the wall between your two nostrils is displaced, which can obstruct airflow because the air can't pass around this deviated bone and tissue. This leads to snoring because there's less airflow through your nose.
  • Smoking: Smoking causes a narrowing in the air passage, leading to serious health effects such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Since smoking causes your blood vessels to constrict, this reduces oxygen flow to your tissues throughout the body, which can cause snoring and make it difficult for you to breathe.
  • Having enlarged tonsils or adenoids: Having enlarged tonsils or adenoids can cause snoring. Since the tonsils and adenoids are the primary tissues in your throat that fight against infections, they can increase in size when you get sick, resulting in airflow obstruction while sleeping.
  • Having a small lower jaw: Having a small lower jaw can cause compression on the airway within your throat. This increases the likelihood of snoring because it causes the tissues in your throat to collapse and vibrate while you breathe, which leads to loud snores.
  • Sleeping on your back: Sleeping on your back causes the structures in your throat to collapse, which leads to obstruction and snoring.
Illustration of a Man Snoring While Sleeping

What are the Risk Factors of Snoring?

The risk factors of snoring are age, gender, sleep position, and asthma.

  • Age: Snoring is most common in men and women over 50 years old. This is because your throat muscles tend to weaken with age, which can cause obstruction.
  • Gender: Men are more likely to develop snoring than women because they're heavier around the throat and neck. Extra weight around the neck region causes your airway to narrow, which can cause snoring. According to the Health University of Utah, about 40 percent of adult men snore, while only 24 percent of women have the same health condition.
  • Sleep position: Your sleeping position may cause you to snore. Sleeping on your back increases the chance of snoring because it makes it easier for soft tissues in your throat to collapse and obstruct airflow while you sleep. This position restricts proper airflow into the passages of the nose.
  • Asthma: People with asthma are more likely to snore because the condition causes airway obstruction during sleep. It’s important to know when snoring is dangerous, facts about sleep apnea, and how to help the issue.

What are the Symptoms of Snoring?

The symptoms of snoring are noisy breathing while sleeping, fatigue, pale skin, and morning headaches.

  • Noisy breathing when sleeping: Snoring is a form of noisy breathing while sleeping. The sound can range from soft to loud, depending on its severity. Snoring is generally characterized by heavy breathing or rattling sounds during sleep due to the narrowing in the air passages and vibrations in the soft tissues in your throat.
  • Fatigue: People who snore often feel tired during the day because they're constantly fighting against a condition that prevents them from having good sleep quality.
  • Pale skin: Snoring can cause you to have light-colored patches around your face, particularly under your eyes and on your cheeks, because it reduces your oxygen flow, which can cause tissue death or hypoxia. The lack of oxygen causes facial skin to become paler than usual over time.
  • Morning Headaches: Snoring can cause you to wake up with a headache because you're not getting enough oxygen throughout the night. Your throat becomes obstructed during sleep, which reduces airflow and oxygen levels in your body.

How is Snoring Diagnosed?

Snoring is diagnosed through a physical examination and your medical history. If there's suspicion of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, you may be asked to take a polysomnography test or an overnight sleep study. This is done to measure the brain waves, oxygen levels in the blood, heart rate, breathing effort, and other characteristics during sleep. The results will help your doctor determine the type of sleep disorder you have.

What are the Complications of Snoring?

Complications of snoring are serious and can affect the overall quality of living. Snoring complications include high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.

  • High Blood Pressure: People who snore are often diagnosed with high blood pressure. It's because of the reduction in oxygen levels at night because you're not getting enough air through your nasal passages due to obstruction.
  • Diabetes: Snoring can cause diabetes among people with obstructive sleep apnea because it causes repeated disruption in the normal blood glucose levels and increases insulin resistance.
  • Heart Disease: Snoring can cause severe health problems such as heart attack, angina, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, and other cardiovascular conditions because it restricts normal blood flow in your body at night due to obstruction. Snoring also increases the risk of stroke. Strokes can lead to long-term health problems and even death.

How to Stop Snoring

The best way to stop snoring is to change your lifestyle. Ways to help you stop snoring include exercise, weight loss, quitting smoking, and avoiding alcohol and sleeping pills.

  • Exercise: Perform exercises that can help you relax your breathing muscles and expand your airways before you go to bed. Try simple breathing and neck stretching exercises.
  • Weight loss: Losing weight can shrink the fat around your throat and reduce snoring. Ensure you lose weight in a healthy way with proper medical advice.
  • Quit smoking: If you're a smoker, you may want to consider quitting. Smoking can cause your throat to swell, which can increase snoring. If you have a habit of smoking before bedtime, try quitting instead, so you reduce the risk of serious health problems in the future.
  • Avoid alcohol and sleeping pills: Alcohol can cause muscle relaxation while sleeping, keeping you in the light stages of sleep and causing snoring. It's best to avoid drinking before bedtime. Sleeping pills are known to increase snoring because they cause muscle relaxation. Avoid taking sleeping aids if possible so you can get rid of loud snoring.
Snoring While Sleeping Illustration

What are the Things to Use to Stop Snoring?

The most useful things to use to stop snoring are available in stores or online. You can talk to your doctor about some products and remedies if you're unsure. Common things people use to stop snoring include anti-snoring devices, nasal sprays, mouthpieces, pillows, and mattresses.

  • Anti-snoring device: An anti-snoring or sleep apnea device is designed to open up your airways. It holds your jaw in a forward position while you sleep, which opens up the nasal passages for you to breathe properly at night. The best anti-snoring devices are available in stores and online.
  • Nasal sprays: Nasal sprays can open up the nasal passages and make it easier for you to breathe. Look for a product with saline content, which is known to soften the membranes in your nose and reduce blockages that cause snoring.
  • Snoring mouthpiece: Mouthpieces are made to fit in your mouth so you can breathe well while sleeping. This device holds your jaw in a forward position, preventing the muscle relaxation that causes snoring.
  • Best pillow for snoring: Pillows are designed to support your head and neck, so you don't snore at night. There are different types of pillows available in stores, all offering different levels of support for this issue.
  • Best mattress for snoring: Mattresses and pillow-top mattresses are designed to offer support for your head and neck, so you don't snore at night. Before buying a new bed, talk to your doctor about snoring so you can choose the best mattress for your needs.

Although some are more comfortable than others, these things can help you stop snoring. Having the best mattress for snoring makes a significant difference by keeping your body and head in the right position. Consider pairing this with a comfortable pillow, and you'll have a higher chance of improving your breathing.

What are the Natural Home Remedies to Stop Snoring

Natural home remedies to stop snoring are simple and can help with this issue if you use them regularly. Some of the most common options include gargling warm salt water, cayenne pepper, ginger, and lemon balm.

  • Gargle warm salt water: Warm salt water is one of the most common natural snoring remedies that really work. Gargling salt water before bedtime helps reduce swelling in your throat and relax muscles so you can breathe properly.
  • Cayenne pepper: Cayenne pepper is a hot spice commonly used in cooking. Rubbing cayenne pepper on your throat can help prevent the muscle relaxation that causes snoring. Mix some water with this product and apply it to your throat before bedtime.
  • Ginger: Ginger is commonly used in cooking because of its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger is also an effective nasal decongestant, which can help open up your airways and reduce snoring at night.
  • Lemon balm: Lemon balm has been used for centuries to fight inflammation in the body. This treatment can help prevent muscle relaxation that causes loud snoring in some people. Drink a mixture of lemon balm and water before bedtime for the best results.

What are the Treatment Options of Snoring?

Treatment options for snoring include nonsurgical and surgical treatments. If you snore when you sleep or your loved ones tell you that it's very loud, make an appointment to visit your doctor. If you need to see your doctor, make sure you bring all of the information mentioned above so they can determine the best way to improve your breathing at night. Your doctor will ask about your medical history and lifestyle habits to determine what's causing the snoring. You'll need a physical exam so they can see if anything is stopping you from breathing properly.

Your doctor may recommend a surgery known as Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, which is designed to remove excess tissue in the throat. This surgery is often used for people with severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea.

Common medications used to stop snoring are nasal sprays and anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. Your doctor will recommend lifestyle changes such as losing weight or quitting smoking if you smoke. You can also try using a special pillow that keeps your head in the correct position or using a special mattress to prevent snoring.

A Wife Having Struggle To Fall Asleep and Husband Snoring Loundly

What are the Non-Surgical Snoring Treatments?

Non-surgical snoring treatments are used to fix the problem without surgery. With these options, you should begin seeing an improvement in your snoring within a few weeks. Experts recommend using both treatments together for the best results. Some of the most popular nonsurgical treatments include lifestyle changes, medication, and changing your pillow or mattress.

  • Lifestyle changes: The first step is to make lifestyle changes that can help you breathe better at night. You should always avoid alcohol and sleeping pills because these substances relax your muscles, which makes snoring worse. If you smoke, now is the time to stop. Smoking can cause swelling in the sinuses, throat, and other areas that block breathing, so it's one of the biggest risk factors for snoring.
  • Medication: The next step is to use medications. Some of the most popular nasal sprays include Flonase and Nasacort, which help reduce swelling in the nose so you can breathe better at night.
  • Some people need anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen for their throat to open up properly. This type of drug works by reducing inflammation that can cause difficulty breathing.
  • Changing your pillow or mattress: Changing your pillow or mattress can also help stop snoring. A special pillow will keep your head in the right position, making it easier for you to breathe at night. Using a special mattress can prevent snoring by keeping your body in the correct alignment while you sleep.

What are the Surgical Options for Treating Snoring?

Surgical options for treating snoring are for people who have tried everything, but their snoring remains severe. Most doctors recommend this method only after changing your lifestyle and using medications that didn't work. The most common surgical options for treating snoring are uvulopalatopharyngoplasty and maxillomandibular advancement,

  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty: Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty is a surgery that removes excess tissue in the throat to improve breathing.
  • Maxillomandibular advancement: Maxillomandibular advancement is another type of surgery designed to make your airway larger by moving the jaw forward. This surgery may also involve making your tongue smaller, so it doesn't block breathing.

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty and maxillomandibular advancement surgeries are usually done on an outpatient basis.

Editor

Jill Zwarensteyn is the Editor for Sleep Advisor and a Certified Sleep Science Coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.

Based in Los Angeles, she is an experienced writer and journalist who enjoys spending her free time at the beach, hiking, reading, or exploring new places around town.

She’s also an avid traveler who has a personal goal of being able to successfully sleep on an airplane someday.

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