Snoring, a common occurrence where air flows past relaxed throat tissues causing them to vibrate, can be normal for people of all ages, including babies and young children. However, loud and frequent snoring may be a sign of sleep apnea, a serious condition where breathing stops temporarily during sleep. If snoring is accompanied by symptoms such as gasping for air, fatigue, or irritability, it’s important to consult a healthcare provider.

To manage snoring, lifestyle changes such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol close to bedtime, and sleeping on your side can be effective. Additionally, medical devices and surgical options are available to reduce disruptive snoring, although they may not be necessary for everyone.


Snoring can sometimes be a sign of a more serious condition known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). While not all snorers have OSA, certain symptoms paired with snoring may warrant a visit to your doctor for an evaluation:

  • Breathing issues: Witnessed pauses in breathing during sleep, gasping, or choking at night.
  • Sleep disruptions: Excessive daytime sleepiness, restless sleep, or waking up frequently with a loud snort or gasping sound.
  • Physical symptoms: Morning headaches, sore throat upon waking, high blood pressure, or nighttime chest pain.
  • Mental and emotional symptoms: Difficulty concentrating, poor attention span in children, behavioral issues, or poor academic performance in school.
  • Volume of snoring: Extremely loud snoring that disrupts a partner’s sleep.

OSA is typically characterized by loud snoring followed by a silent period when breathing stops or nearly stops. Such pauses can occur multiple times per hour of sleep, disrupting sleep quality and leading to light sleep.

Consult your doctor if you experience any of the symptoms listed, as they may suggest the presence of OSA. It’s particularly important to speak to a pediatrician if your child snores, as children can also develop OSA due to factors like enlarged tonsils or obesity, which can narrow their airway.


Several factors can lead to snoring by causing blockages in the airway:

  • Age: As muscle tone decreases with age, airways tend to constrict, making snoring more common in older adults.
  • Alcohol and sedatives: These substances relax the muscles in the throat, which can restrict airflow and lead to snoring.
  • Anatomical factors: Features like enlarged adenoids, large tonsils, or a big tongue can obstruct airflow. A deviated septum, where the cartilage separating the nostrils is off-center, can also impede air movement.
  • Biological sex: Snoring is more frequently reported in people assigned male at birth.
  • Family history: Genetics play a role; having a parent who snores increases the likelihood of snoring.
  • Overall health: Conditions that cause nasal congestion, such as allergies or the common cold, can block airflow. Hormonal changes in pregnancy can also lead to snoring.
  • Weight: Higher body mass index (BMI) is linked to snoring and sleep-related breathing disorders, with increased risks in individuals who are overweight or obese.
  • Sleep deprivation: Insufficient sleep can lead to excessive relaxation of throat muscles when you do sleep, worsening snoring.
  • Sleep position: Sleeping on the back often exacerbates snoring because gravity affects the throat in a way that narrows the airway.

Mechanism behind snoring:

  • Airway obstruction: During the transition from light to deep sleep, the muscles in the soft palate, tongue, and throat relax. If they relax significantly, they can partially block the airway and vibrate as air moves through, creating the snoring sound.
  • Vibration points: The soft palate, tonsils, adenoids, and tongue are common sites where these vibrations occur.
    Impact of narrowed airway: The narrower the airway, the more forceful the airflow becomes. This increased force intensifies tissue vibration, which amplifies the snoring sound.

Risk factors

Several factors can increase the likelihood of snoring, including:

  • Airway structure: Narrow airways due to a long soft palate, or enlarged tonsils or adenoids can lead to snoring.
  • Nasal issues: Structural defects like a deviated septum or chronic nasal congestion can increase snoring risk.
  • Gender: Men are more prone to snoring and sleep apnea than women.
  • Weight: Overweight and obese individuals are at higher risk of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Alcohol consumption: Drinking alcohol relaxes the throat muscles, which can exacerbate snoring.
  • Family history: Genetics can play a role, as those with a family history of snoring or obstructive sleep apnea may be more susceptible.