Snoring is a very common sleep disturbance caused by tissues in your mouth, throat or nose vibrating as you breathe.

By Wallace Health I Medically reviewed by Adrian Roberts.
Page last reviewed: October 2018 I Next review due: October 2021

What is snoring?

When asleep, your muscles relax, allowing tissues in your airways to vibrate as you breathe. These vibrating tissues narrow your airways, causing a sound as air is pushed through.

About four in 10 people snore, with men more likely to snore than women. Getting older increases your risk of being a snorer, with women more likely to snore after the menopause. You’re also more likely to snore if you:

  • Are overweight
  • Smoke
  • Drink alcohol
  • Sleep on your back
  • Have nasal congestion, perhaps caused by nasal polyps (growths in your nose), a deviated septum (the tissue which divides your nostrils) or allergies
  • Have an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)

Snoring can come and go but may become a long-term (chronic) condition which can disrupt sleep and cause insomnia, leading to tiredness and irritability. However, you can often stop snoring by making lifestyle changes, using special devices at night or, occasionally, with surgery.

Snoring is rarely a sign of a serious condition but it can be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).

How to tell if you snore

You may be unaware you’re snoring but your partner may notice harsh, repetitive breathing noises when you’re sleeping.

If your snoring’s a symptom of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), you might also have:

  • Excessive daytime tiredness
  • Loud, laboured breathing when sleeping, interrupted by gasps, snorts or choking noises
  • Restlessness when sleeping, often accompanied by sudden jerking movements
  • Increased need to urinate

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

Diagnosis and tests for snoring

If snoring’s seriously affecting your sleep, your partner’s sleep or your daily life, see your GP. They’ll discuss your symptoms and how they’re affecting you. As your partner may be more aware of your symptoms than you, it might help to take them with you.

Your GP may also examine your throat and nose to check for any problems that might be causing your snoring.

They may look for causes of nasal congestion or a condition such as an underactive thyroid or allergies.

They’ll give you advice about how to stop snoring, including, if required, support to quit smoking.

If your GP suspects you have obstructive sleep apnoea (OAS), they may refer you to a sleep clinic for assessment, diagnosis and treatment.

Common treatments for snoring

To stop snoring, try:

  • Losing any excess weight
  • Sleeping on your side
  • Avoiding alcohol, especially before bedtime
  • Stopping smoking
  • Decongestants – to help relieve nasal congestion
  • Using over the counter anti-snoring devices, such as nasal strips and throat and nasal sprays

If snoring is having a serious impact on your life, your GP or consultant may recommend:

  • A special chin strap to keep your mouth closed while sleeping
  • A mandibular advancement device (MAD) – a simple device you place over your teeth at night, bringing your lower jaw forward and keeping your airways open

If there’s a physical reason for your snoring, your GP or consultant may suggest surgery. This may be to remove nasal polyps or large tonsils or to repair a deviated septum.