What is snoring?
Snoring refers to a rattling, snorting or grumbling sound some people make during sleep. It happens when there’s an obstruction in your airway.
Is snoring normal?
Snoring is common (and normal) for many people. In fact, nearly everyone snores at some point, including babies and young children.
But loud, jarring snoring may indicate sleep apnea — a condition that causes you to pause breathing during sleep. If snoring occurs in combination with apneic episodes (gasping for air in your sleep) and other symptoms like fatigue or irritability, then you should talk to a healthcare provider.
Symptoms and Causes
What are the symptoms of snoring?
Snoring sounds vary from person to person. Snores might sound like:
- Quiet vibrations.
People who snore may also:
- Toss and turn during sleep.
- Wake up with a dry or sore throat.
- Feel tired during the day (fatigue).
- Have headaches.
- Feel moody or irritable.
- Have difficulty focusing.
What causes snoring?
When you breathe, you push air through your nose, mouth and throat. A blockage in your airway can cause these tissues to vibrate against each other as air moves through your:
The vibrations make a rumbling, rattling noise (what we know as snoring).
Several different factors can cause this airway blockage, including:
- Age. Snoring is more common as we age because muscle tone decreases, causing our airways to constrict (shrink).
- Alcohol and sedatives. Beverages containing alcohol and certain medications relax your muscles, restricting airflow through your nose, mouth and throat.
- Anatomy. Enlarged adenoids, big tonsils or a large tongue can make it hard for air to flow through your nose and mouth. A deviated septum (when the cartilage that separates your nostrils is off-center) can also block the flow of air.
- Sex assigned at birth. Snoring is more common in people assigned male at birth (AMAB).
- Family history. Snoring runs in families. If you have a biological parent who snores, you’re more likely to snore, too.
- Overall health. Nasal congestion due to allergies and the common cold blocks airflow through your mouth and nose. Pregnant people are also more likely to snore due to hormonal changes.
- Weight. Snoring and sleep-related breathing disorders are more common in people who have overweight (a body mass index, or BMI, greater than 25) or obesity (a BMI greater than 30).
Is snoring bad?
Snoring isn’t necessarily bad. Most of us snore at some point during our lives. But it’s time to see a healthcare provider if you snore loudly, or if snoring disrupts your sleep quality.
Diagnosis and Tests
How do healthcare providers diagnose snoring?
A healthcare provider will perform a physical examination of your nose, mouth and throat. They’ll also ask you (and maybe even your partner or partners) several questions, including:
- How often do you snore?
- What does your snoring sound like?
- Do you feel rested during the day?
If your provider thinks you might have a sleep disorder (like sleep apnea), they may recommend a sleep study (polysomnography). You might be able to do a sleep study at home, or you may need to spend the night in a sleep center.
A sleep study evaluates:
- Brain wave activity.
- Breathing patterns, including any periods when you stop breathing or gasp for air.
- Heart rate and oxygen levels.
- Movements during sleep, such as arm or leg movements or tossing and turning.
- Sleep cycles and snoring.
Management and Treatment
How do healthcare providers treat snoring?
Healthcare providers use a wide range of treatments to reduce snoring. The option that’s right for you depends on several factors, including the severity of your snoring, your health history and your personal preferences.
Nonsurgical snoring treatments
Nonsurgical snoring remedies focus on improving your sleep posture or opening your airways. These treatments may include:
- Lifestyle changes. Changing your sleep position, avoiding beverages containing alcohol and maintaining a weight that’s healthy for you can reduce snoring.
- Medications. Cold and allergy medications relieve nasal congestion and help you breathe freely.
- Nasal strips. Wearing nasal strips (flexible bands that stick to the outside of your nose) can help keep your nasal passages open.
- Oral appliances. Wearing an oral appliance when you sleep keeps your jaw in the proper position so air can flow. Your healthcare provider might call it a mouth device or mouth guard. A mouth guard used for other purposes, like sports, won’t resolve snoring.
Surgical snoring treatments
Healthcare providers may use surgery to treat severe snoring. The goal of surgery is to shrink or remove excess tissue or correct a structural issue (like a deviated septum). Surgical treatments may include:
- Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP). LAUP reduces tissue in your soft palate and improves airflow.
- Ablation therapy. Also called Somnoplasty®, this technique uses radiofrequency energy to shrink excess tissue in your soft palate and tongue.
- Septoplasty. If you have a deviated septum, your provider may recommend septoplasty. A septoplasty improves airflow through your nose by reshaping the cartilage and bone.
- Tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy. A surgeon removes excess tissue from the back of your throat (tonsillectomy) or the back of your nose (adenoidectomy).
Can I prevent snoring?
Certain lifestyle changes may help you stop or reduce snoring. Here are some things to try:
- Avoid sedatives (like zolpidem, clonazepam and eszopiclone) or beverages containing alcohol before bedtime.
- Ask your provider about medications to relieve nasal congestion.
- Stay active, get plenty of exercise and maintain a weight that’s healthy for you.
- Elevate your head during sleep to improve airflow.
- Try sleeping on your side instead of your back.
- Purchase a snore-reducing pillow that keeps your head in the proper position when you sleep.
Talk to your provider for more tips on how to stop snoring. They can offer personalized recommendations based on your needs.
Outlook / Prognosis
What’s the outlook for people who snore?
Occasional snoring is usually harmless. But loud, disruptive or frequent snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea, a serious disorder. Long-term snoring increases your risk of health issues, including:
- Decreased blood oxygen levels (hypoxia).
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Fatigue (feeling very tired during the day).
- Heart attack.
- High blood pressure.
- Type 2 diabetes.
When should I be worried about snoring?
See a healthcare provider if snoring disrupts your sleep or leads to issues like fatigue, headaches or gasping for air. They can run tests to see if you have sleep apnea or another type of sleep-disordered breathing.
What questions should I ask my doctor?
If you plan to see a healthcare provider about your snoring, here are some questions you might want to ask:
- What’s causing me to snore?
- Is my snoring causing any serious health issues?
- Do I need treatment? If so, what kind?
- Are there lifestyle changes I can make that might reduce snoring?
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you know if you snore?
If you live with a partner or roommate (or several), they may have already told you that you snore. If you live by yourself, it can be more difficult to know for sure. To find out, you can get a noise-activated voice recorder and turn it on before you go to sleep.
Does snoring mean sleep apnea?
Snoring doesn’t necessarily mean you have sleep apnea. Snoring is a common sleep apnea symptom, but there are many other reasons why people snore.
My baby is snoring. Should I worry?
Snoring in babies is common and rarely indicates a serious condition. Most of the time, a stuffy nose causes it. But if you’re worried or concerned, you should schedule a visit with your baby’s pediatrician. They can find out why your baby is snoring and whether they need treatment.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Snoring is a common condition and it’s usually harmless. But if you have loud, chronic snoring that interferes with sleep, it could indicate a more serious issue. Additional symptoms like daytime fatigue, irritability, headaches or gasping for air in your sleep might point to sleep apnea. If you’re not sure if snoring hinders your health, it’s best to schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider. They can determine why you’re snoring and tell you whether you need treatment.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy