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Snoring 

Introduction

Snoring is very common among adults.  During sleep, the airway muscles in the throat relax.  As you breathe in, the airway vibrates, making noise.  Snoring frequently results from turbulent airflow and narrowing in the nose or throat that creates noise while you breathe during sleep. 

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Anatomy
Sleep is vital for life, just like eating and breathing.  Sleep allows your body to rest.  It is believed that during sleep your brain performs important functions, such as storing memory and processing brain chemicals. 
 
In a way, your body goes on “auto-pilot” while you sleep.  Your brain regulates automatic functions for you, such as breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure.  Although sleep is a complex process that is not fully understood, it is known that a good night’s sleep is important for optimal health and functioning.

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Causes
For some people, the cause of snoring is unknown.  However, there are several reasons why snoring may occur.  Snoring may result from deformities or obstructions in the air passages in the nose.  Nasal polyps or a deviated septum are common causes of snoring.  Nasal polyps are growths that may result from irritation, such as from allergies or cigarette smoking.  The septum is the cartilage that gives the nose its shape and divides it in half.  A deviated septum means that the cartilage is off center, having shifted to the left or right.  A deviated septum can obstruct airflow and create noises during breathing.  Additionally, nasal congestion from a cold or allergies can lead to snoring.
 
The airway in the throat may be narrowed and cause snoring.  Enlarged tonsils, adenoids, and obesity can reduce the airway space in the throat.  Alcoholic beverages, sleeping pills, and antihistamine medication can contribute to snoring because they relax the throat muscles.  Women may experience snoring during the last month of pregnancy. 

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Symptoms
Snoring causes a noise when you breathe during sleep.  You may snore every night or every so often.  Snoring may be very loud or not so loud.  Your snoring may be so loud that it wakes you up from your sleep.  Some people may not realize that they snore until other household members let them know about it.

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Diagnosis
You should contact your doctor if your snoring is bothersome, affects your sleep quality, or you suspect that you have sleep apnea.  Your doctor will review your medical history and ask you some questions about your sleep patterns.  Your doctor will carefully examine the structures in your nose and throat.  You may be referred to a sleep study center so that your doctor can learn more about your sleep patterns and identify sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea.

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Treatment
In many cases, snoring may resolve with lifestyle changes.  It can be helpful to lose weight and not consume alcohol or medications that can contribute to snoring.  It can be helpful to sleep on your side.

Over-the-counter products, such as nasal strips and special pillows, may help to keep the airway open during sleep and prevent snoring.  Your dentist can create a mouthpiece for you to wear at night to position your jaw to help keep the airway open.  Your doctor may recommend that you wear a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) nasal device to help keep your airway open at night.  CPAP is used as a treatment for snoring, as well as sleep apnea.

Surgery may be used to remove nasal polyps or correct a deviated septum.  Surgery may also be used to treat structural deformities on the roof of the mouth and the back of the throat.  In some cases, injections may be used to increase the firmness of the palate at the roof of the mouth.

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Prevention
You may prevent snoring by reducing the risk factors that you can control, such as maintaining a healthy weight and not drinking alcohol before bedtime.  Sleeping on your side may help.  Some doctors suggest sewing a tennis ball on the back of your nightshirt to train you to roll off your back and onto your side.

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Am I at Risk

There are several risk factors for snoring:


_____ Nasal obstructions, such as polyps, congestion, or a deviated septum can cause snoring.
_____ Throat obstructions, including enlarged tonsils, adenoids, or extra tissue can cause snoring.
_____ Obesity increases the risk of snoring, particularly in people with large neck sizes.
_____ Women may experience snoring during their last month of pregnancy.
_____ Consuming alcohol before going to sleep increases the risk of snoring because alcohol causes the throat muscles to relax.
_____ Certain medications, such as sleeping pills, muscle relaxants, and antihistamines, can relax the throat and contribute to snoring.
_____ Sleeping on your back increases the risk of snoring.  Sleeping on your side may reduce snoring.
_____ The risk of snoring increases with age.  Your throat muscles become more relaxed as you get older.

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Complications
Snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea, a sleep disorder in which people stop breathing during their sleep.  If your partner or household members have heard you snore, stop breathing, and gasp for air, you may have sleep apnea and should contact your doctor.  Other signs of sleep apnea include daytime drowsiness and headaches upon awakening.  Untreated sleep apnea can be life threatening and result in stroke, heart attack, or death.

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Advancements
Research continues to examine characteristics of snoring sounds to identify ways to predict which patients who snore may have a more serious breathing disorder, such as sleep apnea.

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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.