Snoring: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

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Have you ever been torn from blissful slumber by the sound of a chainsaw in your room, only to find out it was your bed partner snoring? Or been roughly shoved to your side after shaking the bed with your percussive snores? Snoring stars in many a joke or anecdote over dinner, but can prompt a wide range of emotions from amusement to annoyance or embarrassment. 

If you snore, you are in the same boat as 90 million Americans, which is a pretty big boat. (1)  Around 25 to 50 percent of adults snore regularly, making sleep hard for the snorer and anyone in earshot. (1) Below, we’ll explain what causes snoring and give you tips on how to lessen your nighttime noises.

Note: The content on Sleepopolis is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t be taken as medical advice, and it shouldn’t take the place of medical advice and supervision from a trained professional. If you feel you may be suffering from any sleep disorder or medical condition, please see your healthcare provider immediately. 

Long Story Short

  • Snoring can be caused by various factors, including sleeping positions, nasal congestion, weight gain, pregnancy, alcohol, medications, and sometimes by the size of your mouth, jaw, or tonsils.
  • Snoring can be dangerous if caused by a medical condition called sleep apnea, which interrupts your breathing throughout the night and prevents you from getting all the oxygen you need.
  • You can try to lessen snoring by using nasal devices, oral appliances, changing sleep positions, avoiding alcohol before bed, and adjusting your medications with the oversight of your healthcare provider. If you have sleep apnea, a CPAP machine can help you breathe and sleep better, snore-free.

What Causes Snoring?

Why do people snore? It turns out many things can cause snoring — some have simple fixes, while others may require input from a healthcare provider. The path from your mouth to your lungs (your airway) is designed to stay open at all times to let air through. (2) However, when you lie down to sleep, especially on your back, this path can be partially closed, turning your airway into an instrument for snores. (3)

Snoring can also peak during your third stage of sleep: N3/slow wave. (4) In this sleep stage, your body reaches its highest levels of relaxation, which includes the muscles around your mouth and throat. (5) When these tissues relax, they can partially block your airway and lead to — you guessed it — a symphony of snoring.

These things can also contribute to snoring, says Dr. Chester Wu, MD, sleep medicine physician in Houston, TX:

  • Nasal congestion: Often a symptom of allergies or illness, nasal congestion can block air passages. This blockage can alter airflow dynamics, potentially contributing to snoring by causing vibrations in the throat.
  • Weight gain: Extra tissue in the throat can narrow airways, increasing the chance of vibrations. Fun fact: a higher BMI (weight-to-height ratio) has been correlated with snoring volume. (6)
  • Pregnancy: Hormonal changes and weight gain during pregnancy can lead to swollen nasal passages and increased snoring.
  • Alcohol consumption: Alcohol relaxes your throat muscles, mostly noticeably in your tongue — a perfect recipe for snoring. (6)

Some sleeping medications can also relax your throat muscles, so you may want to try a few different options under your healthcare provider’s direction. (6) Additionally, sometimes our bodies are more prone to snoring because of a small jaw, large tonsils, or a deviated septum. (7

What Is A Deviated Septum?

Your nasal septum is the wall of cartilage and bone that divides your nasal passages in half. When you have a deviated septum, this wall curves to either side or in an “S” shape. (8)

Let’s look at the symptoms of snoring and then we’ll give you some tips and tricks for a quieter night.

Symptoms and Side Effects of Snoring

The number one symptom of snoring is, well, noise. Your sleeping partner knows these noises well and may perfectly mimic the sound. Snores can range from subtly gentle to shockingly loud and sudden. Unlike white noise, snoring often follows no pattern, and the oddly timed hubbub can disrupt the sleep of anyone nearby. (6)

If you snore with your mouth open, you may notice your lips and mouth are dry when you wake. Open-mouthed snoring can also contribute to breathing problems and dental disease. (9)

On top of those unpleasant side effects, snoring may impact how well you’re sleeping, too. Snorers often say they don’t feel refreshed after sleep and may actually get less quality sleep because of snoring interruptions. (6) Most of us know what that means — not getting enough high-quality sleep can make it difficult to learn and focus at work or school and can leave you feeling cranky and frustrated. (10)

Recent research suggests an association between snoring and carotid artery stenosis (CAD), which means some major blood vessels in your neck can narrow, leading to less blood and oxygen getting to your brain. If left too long, CAD can lead to a heart attack or stroke. (11) (12) Over 20 million Americans have CAD, but fortunately, it can be treated. (13) If your snoring is related to sleep apnea, that’s a whole other ball of wax. Hang in there — it’s almost time for the good news!

Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Snoring and sleep apnea often go hand-in-hand. When you have sleep apnea, your breathing stops and starts while you sleep at night, and its symptoms can include: (14)

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Trouble learning and focusing
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Waking up to pee often at night

“Snoring isn’t always a sign of sleep apnea, but almost everyone who has sleep apnea snores,” says Wu. Naturally, people who snore are more likely to have sleep apnea than people who do not. (6

Sleep apnea takes snoring a step further: the decreased airflow from throat blockage can wake you up throughout the night and even lower your oxygen levels, says Wu. If you snore regularly, it’s a good idea to let your healthcare provider know — they can help you with next steps.

Is Snoring Dangerous?

Dramatic, right? Maybe, but you want to know you’re safe while you sleep. “Snoring can be dangerous if it’s a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea,” says Wu.

He adds that if you snore but don’t have sleep apnea the danger may be lower, but no snoring is without negative effects. “Even quieter or infrequent snoring can signify breathing irregularities that lead to less restful sleep, increasing the risk of daytime fatigue and concentration difficulties.”

You may also consider getting pummeled all night by your frustrated bed partner dangerous, but we have some solutions for you.

How to Stop Snoring

Thankfully you have plenty of options to keep your noisy breathing to a minimum, allow you more restful sleep, and pacify your bed partner or roommate.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

For individuals with obstructive sleep apnea, healthcare providers often recommend the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine as a primary treatment. A CPAP includes a mask that goes over your nose and mouth. The mask is connected to a machine that provides a steady stream of air at a prescribed pressure, which helps to keep the airways open throughout the night. If the mask is a no-go for you, you can also try a version that just covers your nose. (15)

Oral Appliances 

If you do an internet search for “snoring mouthpiece,” you’ll find pages and pages of products offering a simple and cost-effective solution to your snoring. Oral appliances designed for snoring often work by advancing the lower jaw and sometimes the tongue, thereby enlarging the airway space in the back of the throat to reduce snoring. (16) Some find them uncomfortable, but it may be worth a try.

Saline Nasal Spray

It’s not a fix for every type of snoring, but if you know you’re dealing with sinus-related snoring, saline nasal sprays can help clear you out before bed. (17)

Nasal Devices

If you snore from your nose, you can try wearing sticky strips over the bridge of your nose that hold open your nasal passages. You can also use an internal dilator, a small device that sits in your nostrils, pushing them outward. These work best for small nostrils and mild congestion. (18)

Positional Therapy 

Lying on your back can cause snoring because gravity wants to pull your tongue towards the back of your throat. You can try sleeping on your side to eliminate this factor and see if your snoring disappears. If you roll to your back while you sleep, you can try wearing a t-shirt backward with a tennis ball in the pocket to train yourself to stay on your side, or use pillows to keep yourself in the position you’re shooting for. (6) 

Lifestyle Changes 

You can take charge of your snoring with a few different lifestyle changes. For example, losing weight, drinking less alcohol, and quitting smoking can all decrease your nighttime snores. If you think your sleeping pill may be the culprit, let your healthcare provider know and they can help you find another one. (6)

Surgical Procedures

When all the above doesn’t cut it, or if your snores originate from how your body is built, your provider may recommend surgery. Most surgical options involve stiffening or shortening your soft palate (the back of the roof of your mouth). These surgeries don’t work for everyone, but your provider can help you choose the treatment that fits your situation best. (6)

Whew! That list of options may have felt overwhelming. If you’re not sure what to try, you can ask your provider for some suggestions on where to start. Speaking of doctors…

When Should I See A Doctor About Snoring?

You can always see your healthcare provider about any concern involving your body, including snoring. “You should see a doctor if your snoring is loud, persistent, and accompanied by daytime fatigue, choking or gasping at night, or if it affects the quality of your sleep or your partner,” says Wu. It can be hard to pinpoint the cause of your daytime sleepiness, but snoring is always possible.

If sleep apnea is causing your snores, it’s important to get treatment from your provider as soon as possible. Untreated sleep apnea can increase your risk for health conditions like stroke, heart attacks, and type 2 diabetes. (19) Sleep apnea treatment can decrease these risks, so when in doubt, check it out.

How Can I Tell If I Snore When I Sleep Alone?

If you sleep alone, it’s hard to tell if you snore. You can go the old-timey route and simply film yourself while you sleep. But these days, your smartphone is brimming with apps to help you track your snoozing. 

Whether you use a sleep app to listen for snoring or wear a smartwatch device to track night time wake-ups, you can get a good preliminary picture of your snoring habits and how they affect your sleep. While these will never be as reliable as a medically supervised sleep study, they can give you a decent gauge on what’s going on while you sleep. (20) All that said, if you sleep alone and think you snore, it’s best to let your provider know and look into a medically supervised sleep study.


Why do I snore so loud?

Loud snores often originate from vibrations in the soft palate, but can also involve other structures in the throat. While the interaction between the soft palate and the tongue can contribute, loud snoring is a complex phenomenon that may involve multiple factors. (21) (22) A higher BMI (body mass index) has been linked to snoring volume, but loud snores may also point to sleep apnea, so be sure to let your healthcare provider know. (4) (6)

The Last Word From Sleepopolis

Snoring can be a simple annoyance or a real risk to your health. Whether you’re trying to appease your sleeping partner or seeking treatment for a medical condition, you can check with your healthcare provider for your best next steps. In the meantime, try out some of our tips and see if you (and everyone around you) can get some more peaceful sleep.


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    Wu, Chester, MD. Personal interview. January 4, 2024.

Abby McCoy

Abby McCoy

Abby McCoy is an RN of 16 years who has worked with adults and pediatric patients encompassing trauma, orthopedics, home care, transplant, and case management. She has practiced nursing all over the world from San Fransisco, CA to Tharaka, Kenya. Abby loves spending time with her husband, four kids, and their cat named Cat.