What Causes Snoring? Symptoms, Treatments, and When to See a Doctor

Last updated: September 25th, 2023

What Causes Snoring?

Snoring is the sound that air makes when it passes across the relaxed or loose tissues of the upper airway. During sleep, the muscles in the back of the mouth, nose, or throat become relaxed and breath flowing through the airway causes them to vibrate or flap. This action produces the rumbling, whistling, or choking sounds associated with snoring.

Anything that obstructs or narrows a person’s airway increases the chances of snoring. For example, congestion from a sinus infection or allergies can block airflow through the nose or throat, so it’s not uncommon for people with chronic congestion to snore. Extra tissue surrounding the neck and airway from weight gain may increase the risk of snoring. Snoring also increases as people reach the end of pregnancy. Some people are also more likely to snore at some point during their lifetime, including those who are postmenopausal, men or anyone assigned male at birth, and older adults. In addition, certain anatomical features can also increase the likelihood that a person will snore, such as nasal polyps or growths inside the nasal passages, a deviated nasal septum, swollen tonsils or adenoids, a small mouth with a large tongue, or a tongue that has a base larger than the rest of the tongue.

Symptoms of Snoring

When a person snores while they sleep, they may not be aware that they are snoring until someone else points it out. They may experience one or more of the following symptoms when they snore:

  • Gag reflex reaction
  • Hearing excessive snoring from oneself upon waking
  • Waking with a dry mouth or dry throat
  • Trouble staying asleep
  • Never-ending nasal obstruction
  • Groggy feeling upon waking

Snoring Treatments

Fortunately, there are a few treatments available to stop snoring. Some of these include:

  • Nasal strips to open up your nasal passages
  • Dedicating yourself to an exercise program that will help you lose weight
  • Change of sleeping position to reduce the strain on your airways
  • Diet modifications to avoid food that cause mucus production
  • Oral snoring devices to keep mouth closed while sleeping
  • Surgery

When to See a Doctor

Snoring can be disruptive to one’s sleep and can also be disruptive to the sleep of those around them. If snoring is persistent and severe, or if snoring comes with other sleep disorder symptoms, such as gasping, snorting, or difficulty breathing, it is best to consult a doctor. The doctor will be able to diagnose any underlying sleep disorder causing the snoring and provide the best treatment options, such as an overnight sleep study to monitor sleep stages, respirations, and more.

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