St. Luke's Hospital
Located in Chesterfield, MO
Main Number: 314-434-1500
Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia


    Snoring - adults

    Snoring is a loud, hoarse, or harsh breathing sound that occurs during sleep.


    Snoring is common in adults. It does not necessarily mean that you have a health problem.

    A doctor (or sleep specialist) can tell if you have sleep apnea by doing a sleep study either at home or in a hospital.

    Snoring is an important social problem. People who share a bed with someone who snores can develop sleep difficulties.


    In most people, the reason for snoring is not known. Some possible causes include:

    • Being overweight -- the extra neck tissue puts pressure on the airways
    • Swelling of the tissue during the last month of pregnancy
    • Blockage in the nose caused by a crooked, bent, or deformed nasal septum (the structure that separates the nostrils)
    • Nasal polyps
    • Stuffed nose from a cold or allergies, especially if it lasts a long time

    Changes in the mouth and throat, such as:

    • Swelling in the roof of the mouth (soft palate) or the uvula, the piece of tissue that hangs down in the back of the mouth. These areas may also be longer than normal.
    • Swollen adenoids and tonsils that block the airways
    • Poor muscle tone
    • 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.

    Home Care

    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
    • Excessive daytime drowsiness
    • Morning headaches
    • Recent weight gain

    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
    • Weight loss
    • 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.


    • Throat anatomy


      • Throat anatomy


      A Closer Look

        Self Care

          Tests for Snoring - adults

            Review Date: 8/31/2011

            Reviewed By: 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.

            The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

            A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.

            Back  |  Top
            About Us
            Contact Us
            Locations & Directions
            Quality Reports
            Annual Reports
            Honors & Awards
            Community Health Needs

            Brain & Spine
            Sleep Medicine
            Urgent Care
            Women's Services
            All Services
            Patients & Visitors
            Locations & Directions
            Find a Physician
            Tour St. Luke's
            Patient & Visitor Information
            Contact Us
            Payment Options
            Financial Assistance
            Send a Card
            Mammogram Appointments
            Health Tools
            My Personal Health
            Spirit of Women
            Health Information & Tools
            Clinical Trials
            Employer Programs -
            Passport to Wellness

            Classes & Events
            Classes & Events
            Spirit of Women
            Donate & Volunteer
            Giving Opportunities
            Physicians & Employees
            For Physicians
            Remote Access
            Medical Residency Information
            Pharmacy Residency Information
            Physician CPOE Training
            St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
            Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Notice of Privacy Practices PDF  |  Patient Rights PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile