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SUNY Downstate Medical Center

Sleep Disorders Center


What is Snoring?

photo of couple in bed with man snoring and woman with pillow over her ears

Snoring is a loud, hoarse, or harsh breathing sound that occurs during sleep. 33% of adults who snore have a life-threatening sleep disorder. Snoring can be a sign of a sleep disorder called sleep apnea. A sleep specialist can diagnose sleep apnea by doing a sleep study.

Snoring can be a problem for the bed partner of a snorer as well. Sleep may be disrupted by the sound of the other person's snoring, leading to sleep difficulties and other issues for the non-snorer.

Causes of Snoring

In most cases, the reason for snoring is not known. Some potential causes, other than sleep apnea, include:

  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Nasal congestion
  • Swelling of the uvula (the piece of tissue that hangs down in the back of the mouth)
  • Use of sleeping pills, antihistamines, or alcohol at bedtime

Tips to Help Reduce Snoring:

  • Avoid alcohol and other sedatives at bedtime.
  • Sleep on your side, not your back.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Try over-the-counter, drug-free nasal strips that help widen the nostrils. (These are not intended as treatments for sleep apnea.)

Snoring in Children

Children with chronic snoring should also be evaluated 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 reliable way to tell for sure.