A large area at the base of the tongue, or a tongue that is large compared to the mouth
Abnormalities in the bones of the face
Use of sleeping pills, antihistamines, or alcohol at bedtime
Sometimes snoring can be a sign of a sleep disorder called sleep apnea. This means you have periods in which you completely or partly stop breathing for more than 10 seconds while you sleep.
The episode is followed by a sudden snort or gasp when you start breathing again. Then you start to snore again. If you have sleep apnea, this cycle usually happens many times a night. Sleep apnea is not as common as snoring.
The following tips may help reduce snoring:
Avoid alcohol and other sedatives at bedtime.
Don't sleep flat on your back. Sleep on your side, if possible. Some doctors even suggest sewing a golf or tennis ball into the back of your night clothes. This causes discomfort if you roll over and helps reminds you to stay on your side. Eventually, sleeping on your side becomes a habit and you don't need to be reminded.
Lose weight, if you are overweight.
Try over-the-counter, drug-free nasal strips that help widen the nostrils. (These are not treatments for sleep apnea.)
If your doctor has given you a breathing device, use it on a regular basis. Follow your health care provider's advice for treating allergy symptoms.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Talk to your health care provider if you have:
A change in your level of attention, concentration, or memory
Been waking up in the morning not feeling rested
Episodes of no breathing (apnea) -- your partner may need to tell you if you are snoring loudly or making choking and gasping sounds
Children with chronic snoring should also be tested for apnea. Sleep apnea in children has been linked to growth problems, ADHD, poor school performance, learning difficulties, bedwetting, and high blood pressure. Most children who snore do NOT have apnea, but a sleep study is the only way to tell for sure.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your health care provider will ask questions to evaluate your snoring. You will also have a physical exam that focuses on your throat, mouth, and neck.
Questions may include the following (some of which your partner might have to answer):
Is your snoring loud?
Do you snore no matter what position you are lying in, or only in certain positions?
Does your own snoring ever wake you up?
How often do you snore? Every night?
Do you snore throughout the night?
Are there episodes when you are not breathing?
Do you have other symptoms like daytime drowsiness, morning headaches, insomnia, or memory loss?
You may need to be referred to a sleep specialist for sleep studies.
Treatment options include:
Dental appliances to prevent your tongue from falling back
If you have sleep apnea, use of a CPAP mask (a device you wear on the nose while sleeping to decrease snoring and sleep apnea)
Surgical procedures on your palate
Surgery to correct a deviated septum or remove tonsils (tonsillectomy)
Other types of surgery involving the airway
Franklin KA, Anttila H, Axelsson S, Gislason T, Maasilta P, Myhre KI, et al. Effects and side-effects of surgery for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea--a systematic review. Sleep. 2009;32:27-36.
Friedman M, Schalch P. Surgery of the palate and oropharynx. Otolaryngol Clin North Am. 2007 Aug;40(4):829-43.
Patil SP, Schneider H, Schwartz AR, Smith PL. Adult obstructive sleep apnea: pathophysiology and diagnosis. Chest. 2007 Jul;132(1):325-37.
Basner RC. Continuous positive airway pressure for obstructive sleep apnea. N Engl J Med. 2007 Apr 26;356(17):1751-8.
Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.