Snoring - Causes and treatments

What is the cause of snoring?

As seen from the medical side, snoring is the vibration of respiratory structures and the resulting sound, due to obstructed air movement during breathing while sleeping. In some cases the sound may be soft, but in other cases, it can be rather loud and quite unpleasant.

Statistics on snoring are often contradictory, but at least 30% of adults and perhaps as many as 50% of people in some demographics snore. One survey of 5713 Italian residents identified habitual snoring in 24% of men and 13.8% of women, rising to 60% of men and 40% of women aged 60 to 65 years; this suggests an increased susceptibility to snoring as age increases.

What impact does snoring have?

Snoring is known to cause sleep deprivation to snorers and those around them, as well as daytime drowsiness, irritability, lack of focus and decreased libido. It has also been suggested that it can cause significant psychological and social damage to sufferers. Multiple studies reveal a positive correlation between loud snoring and risk of heart attack (about +34% chance) and stroke (about +67% chance).

Though snoring is often considered a minor affliction, snorers can sometimes suffer severe impairment of lifestyle. The between-subjects trial by Armstrong et al. discovered a statistically significant improvement in marital relations after snoring was surgically corrected.

Snoring and relationships

Snoring can get in the way of a good night’s sleep and a healthy relationship with your spouse or partner. 

Mild snoring that isn't related to sleep apnea responds well to home remedies like dental appliances (MAD). Finding a cure for your snoring problem can result in an improved quality of life for you and your loved ones.
Sleep partners of people who snore heavily often awaken over twenty times per hour. The constant sleep disruption and excessive tiredness caused by noisy snoring takes a toll on social and physical aspects of a relationship.

Many partners of snorers decide to sleep in separate rooms, and the resulting lack of bedtime chatting and physical intimacy can lead to a strained relationship. The person who snores often becomes isolated and frustrated about a problem they seemingly have no control over.

Negative health effects of snoring

The most typical health problem snoring causes is loss of sleep for both the person snoring and his (or her) sleep partner. The snoring noise combined with tossing and turning often keep both people from sleeping soundly. Sleep deprivation has significant consequences: excessive sleepiness, irritability, and lack of productivity during the day, as well as negative health repercussions.

People who snore chronically are often middle-aged and overweight, and snoring may indicate a more serious underlying medical problem.

Sleep apnea and snoring

Snoring can also be a symptom of sleep apnea, a potentially life-threatening condition. While snoring is caused by narrow airways, sleep apnea is a true breathing obstruction, which requires the sleeper to awaken to begin breathing again. A person with sleep apnea wakes up many times a night to regain breathing, but usually remembers nothing at all about the awakenings. Snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea, but snoring by itself does not involve the cessation of breathing.

Treatments for snoring

Almost all treatments for snoring revolve around clearing the blockage in the breathing passage. This is the reason why snorers are advised to lose weight (to stop fat from pressing on the throat), stop smoking (smoking weakens and clogs the throat) and sleep on their side (to prevent the tongue from blocking the throat). Through years of studies in sleep centers round the world it is now known that only  three treatments will help effectivly against snoring:

Mandibular advancement devices (MAD)
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

A number of non-effective treatments are also available, ranging from nose clips, lubricating sprays and "anti-snore" clothing and pillows. However, snoring is a recognized medical problem and people who snore should always seek professional medical advice before relying on techniques that may mask symptoms (i.e. snoring) but not treat the underlying condition.

Mandibular advancement devices (MAD)

Specially made dental appliances called mandibular advancement devices, which advance the lower jaw slightly and thereby pull the tongue forward, are the most effectice treatment for snoring. Such appliances have even been proven to be effective in reducing snoring and sleep apnea in cases where the apnea is mild to moderate. Mandibular advancement devices are often tolerated much better than CPAP machines. They are usually made from an EVA polymer and are similar in appearance to protective mouth-guards worn for sports.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is often used to control sleep apnea and the snoring associated with it. To keep the airway open, a shoebox-sized device pumps a controlled stream of air through a flexible hose to a mask worn over the nose, mouth, or both.


Certain surgeries, including Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), Thermal Ablation Palatoplasty (TAP), tonsillectomy, and adenoidectomy, increase the size of your airway by surgically removing tissues or correcting abnormalities. Using a scalpel, laser, or microwaving probe (radiofrequency energy), a surgeon may remove tonsils, adenoids, or excess tissue at the back of the throat or inside the nose, or reconstruct the jaw.

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