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Snoring is a sound made during sleep. It is the sound of the throat vibrating as air flows through it.

Causes of Snoring

Air should be able to move easily through your mouth, nose, and throat. Sometimes, during sleep, air cannot move through these areas easily. This turbulent airflow makes the roof of the mouth vibrate. This is what causes the snoring sound. Smaller airways can lead to louder snoring. Airflow may be obstructed by:

  • Weak muscles in the tongue and throat
  • Enlarged tonsils, adenoids or other obstructions such as a tumors or cysts
  • Excessive tissue around the throat due to obesity
  • Structural factors:
    • A long, soft palate
    • A long uvula
    • Deformities of the nose or nasal septum
    • Small chin, overbite or high palate
  • Congested nasal passages from a cold, flu, sinus infection or allergies


Being over 50 years old and male increase the risk of snoring. Other factors include:

  • Being overweight
  • Family history
  • Use of drugs (central nervous system depressants) or alcohol that act as respiratory depressants
  • Lying on back while sleeping
  • Nasal obstruction (due to a cold, sinus infection, allergy, enlarged adenoids or injury that has displaced the nasal cartilage or bones)


The main symptom is noisy breathing during sleep.

Snoring may be associated with a sleep condition called sleep apnea, and  the two may cause these symptoms:

  • While sleeping:
    • Gasping
    • Choking
    • Long pauses in breathing
    • Frequent awakening
  • While awake:
    • Sleepiness and fatigue during the day
    • Slowness in mental functioning
    • Headaches

When Should I Call My Doctor?

Call your doctor if you snore and you have other symptoms of sleep apnea. Talk to your doctor if you have regular snoring that is bothering you or your partner.


If your snoring is severe, the doctor will want to make sure you do not have obstructive sleep apnea. Diagnosis may involve:

  • Physical exam of the throat, neck, mouth and nose
  • A sleep study in a laboratory — to help determine how much the snoring is disrupting your sleep


In cases of snoring without sleep apnea, lifestyle changes may alleviate symptoms. More severe cases may require surgery or devices.

Lifestyle Changes

Changes that may help this stop include:

  • If you are overweight, lose weight.
  • Exercise to improve muscle tone.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or taking sedatives.
  • Sleep on your side rather than on your back. Try taping a marble or tennis ball to your back before going to bed to prevent rolling onto your back.
  • Treat nasal congestion (e.g., allergies or colds).
  • Raise the head of your bed up about 4 inches, use extra pillows or put something under the mattress.

Somnoplasty Treatment

Somnoplasty uses a wand-like instrument that emits radio-frequency energy to shrink excess soft tissue in the upper airway and it:

  • Takes less than thirty minutes
  • Is performed in the doctor's office
  • Requires only local anesthesia
  • Allows for a quick recovery

Costs & Recovery

  • You may experience a sore throat for 7-10 days, with increased snoring.
  • Snoring will usually begin to diminish in intensity by the 8th week.
  • If you do not notice significant improvement by ten weeks, the somnoplasty procedure may be repeated up to 3 times.


Make an appointment to visit the Charlottesville ENT Associates clinic.


Devices that can open airways during sleep include:

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) involves wearing a mask-like nasal device during sleep that maintains continuous air pressure in the nose and upper throat to keep it open. It is more commonly used for people with obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Dental devices are put into the mouth during sleep to position the soft palate for better breathing.
  • Nasal strips help widen nasal passages.


Medication may be used in patients who have some residual sleepiness during the day and are treated with CPAP at night.

Prevent It

To reduce the chances of snoring, take these steps:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Treat cold and allergy symptoms.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or taking sedatives for several hours before bedtime.
  • Sleep on your side.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.