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How to stop snoring

5-minute read

Key facts

  • Snoring happens when there are loud vibrations in a part of your throat called the pharynx while you are asleep.
  • Living with overweight or obesity, drinking alcohol, breathing through your mouth, being pregnant or sleeping on your back are some reasons why you may snore.
  • Some people who snore may have obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) which is a serious medical condition that needs medical treatment.
  • You should seek medical advice if your snoring is bothering you or people in your household, or if you are waking up at night choking or gasping for air.
  • You can make changes to your lifestyle by not drinking alcohol before going to sleep, quitting smoking, avoiding allergy triggers or sleeping on your side to help you stop snoring.

What is snoring?

Snoring happens when while you are asleep there are loud vibrations in a part of your throat called the pharynx. Your pharynx is held by muscles. When you sleep these muscles relax. Your pharynx becomes narrower and it vibrates more easily when you breathe in. The narrower your pharynx becomes, the more easily it vibrates and the louder you may snore.

Snoring can be a sign of a more serious health issue. It can indicate that there is something interfering with your breathing. Snoring is very common. It happens more often in males than in females.

What causes snoring?

There are many reasons why you may snore. These include:

Snoring and sleep apnoea

Some people who snore loudly also have a condition called obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).

Similar to when you snore, if you have OSA your airway becomes narrow and floppy when you are asleep. However with OSA, you also have repeated episodes of partial or complete blockages of your airways. This causes your breathing to be reduced or stop for a short time causing your blood oxygen levels to fall. Your sleep is briefly interrupted as you wake up for a few seconds, allowing you to start breathing again. You can have up to hundreds of these episodes (known as apnoeas) each night. Some people do not know they have OSA.

OSA is a serious health problem that needs medical attention. Apart from making you tired, it can reduce your concentration and increase your risk of health problems including high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and heart attack. It can also lead to motor vehicle accidents because drivers fall asleep.

Not everybody who snores has sleep apnoea.

If your child snores, it may be because their tonsils are enlarged or they are living with overweight or obesity. Not all children who snore have sleep apnoea.

When should I see a doctor?

You should see your doctor if:

  • your snoring is irritating you or your household
  • you wake up gasping or choking

If you have a partner, it is recommended they come with you to your doctor. They can explain to your doctor what happens when you sleep.

If your snoring is a sign that you have sleep apnoea, your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist. They may also recommend an overnight sleep study.

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How is snoring treated?

There are many options you can try to stop storing. This includes making changes to your lifestyle to treat what may be causing you to snore, or using medical devices.

Changes you can make to your lifestyle to help you stop snoring include:

  • avoiding alcohol for at least 4 hours before going to sleep
  • losing weight, if you are living with overweight or obesity
  • sleeping on your side
  • trying to stay away from triggers if allergies make your snoring worse

Devices that can help you stop snoring include the following:

  • Mandibular advancement splint — This looks like a mouth guard. You wear it between your teeth when you sleep. It pushes your lower jaw forward and makes your airway wider. A dentist or oral surgeon can fit this for you.
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine — If your snoring is caused by OSA, your doctor may recommend you use a CPAP machine. This involves wearing a mask connected to a pump at night. It blows air into your nose or mouth whilst you sleep to keep your airways open.
  • Nasal dilator strips — These help to unblock your nose; they do not stop your snoring by themselves.
  • Surgery — A type of surgery called uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) makes the back of your throat wider. This was once common, but only works for some people. It has a low success rate in the long term.

If your child snores because they have enlarged tonsils, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove their adenoids and tonsils.

Resources and support

You can learn more about snoring on Sleep Health Foundation website, and their page on childhood snoring and sleep apnoea.

The Sleep Health Foundation also has a list of certified suppliers of CPAP sleep solutions in Australia.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2023

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