Noisy breathing during sleep, which may be a symptom of the more serious disorder sleep apnoea

  • Most common in children and in adults between the ages of 40 and 60
  • More common in males
  • Being overweight, drinking alcohol, and smoking are risk factors
  • Genetics is not a significant factor

Snoring is the sound made by the vibration of the soft tissues at the back of the mouth. Although it is often considered to be an insignificant problem, snoring can be distressing both to the people who are affected and their partners. Loud snoring may also be an early symptom of sleep apnoea. The condition is most common in children and adults between the ages of 40 and 60, and particularly affects men.

What are the causes?

Vibration of the soft palate may be caused by an obstruction or narrowing of the nasopharynx (the passage leading from the back of the nasal cavity to the throat). The nasopharynx may become obstructed if you are overweight. Sleeping on your back can make snoring worse because the nasopharynx is more likely to become partly blocked if you lie in this position.

Other causes of snoring include narrowing of the nasopharynx caused by relaxation or swelling of the tissues of the soft palate. Relaxation may be the result of drinking alcohol or taking sedatives. Swelling may be caused by a throat infection or irritation of the soft palate by tobacco smoke.

Snoring also occurs because of congestion due to a common cold. In some cases, an anatomical abnormality such as a deviated nasal septum may be associated with snoring. In children, the condition usually occurs as a result of enlarged tonsils and adenoids.

What can I do?

If you have other symptoms, such as daytime sleepiness or lack of concentration, you should consult your doctor in case you have sleep apnoea. Otherwise, the following self-help measures may bring relief. You may be able to prevent snoring by making it uncomfortable to sleep on your back, perhaps by sewing a small object, such as a tennis ball, into the back of your night clothes. If you are overweight, it will help to lose weight. You should also give up smoking, reduce alcohol consumption, and avoid taking sedatives or drinking alcohol before going to bed.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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