The "sawing wood" sound that is snoring comes from vibrations in the tissues of the throat, especially the soft palate and the uvula, which flap back and forth as we breathe during sleep. Snoring can be caused or made worse by any condition or activity that narrows the nasal and throat passages.


Derek Lipman, MD

What Is Common Snoring?
Researchers estimate that there are between 35 million and 40 million snorers in the United States, and there are probably almost as many companions who are affected by snoring. For some people, snoring is a mild habit, but for others it is a disruptive noise that has serious effects on health and well-being.

These causes include:

  • A congested nose due to allergies, polyps, sinus infections, or cold or flu
  • A deviated septum
  • Weight gain
  • Abuse of sleeping pills
  • Alcoholic nightcaps
  • Extreme fatigue

All of these conditions or activities may relax the throat tissues and result in snoring.

Can Snoring Be Dangerous?
Snoring can be a danger sign in people who also have sleep apnea. Apnea, unlike common snoring, is a condition that prevents normal breathing during sleep. This disorder affects as many as 20 million men and women in this country (USA), mostly men. People with sleep apnea have a poor quality of sleep, are generally tired during the daytime, and are likely to be overweight. Simple self-remedies do not help with sleep apnea. If you think you have it, see your physician.

Treating Common Snoring
With appropriate treatment, snorers can be welcomed back by their sleeping companions. Common snorers, ie, those who are not afflicted with apnea, may try various lifestyle changes, devices, or over-the-counter medications.

Lifestyle Changes

  • If you are overweight, follow a weight loss program, combined with an exercise program.
  • Try sleeping on your side—on a firm mattress with a low pillow—in a cool, well-ventilated room.
  • Avoid heavy meals and caffeinated or alcoholic drinks just before going to bed.

Antisnore devices are designed to hold the snorer’s mouth closed, to extend the neck, to keep the snorer from sleeping on his or her back, or to open the nasal passages. Most of these devices do not work. However, external nasal dilators—which fit like a bandage over the bridge of the nose—are useful for snoring resulting from nasal congestion. They are safe, widely available, and inexpensive. You also may want to consider a pair of earplugs—for your partner.

Over-the-Counter Medications
Traditional decongestant or antihistamine pills and nasal sprays can help lessen snoring, but they can be habit-forming and have side effects. Homeopathic remedies such as SnoreStop also appear to lessen snoring but without the problems associated with traditional decongestants and antihistamines. SnoreStop was evaluated in a clinical study, and the positive results were published in a medical journal, Sleep and Breathing. SnoreStop reduced the frequency and loudness of snoring in a majority of those who took the medicine, according to their bedroom partner.

My Snoring Still Won’t Stop!
When conservative treatment of snoring has been unsuccessful, you should see your physician, who may test you for sleep apnea. If you have this condition, your physician may recommend surgery. Such surgery on the nose could include the removal of polyps or the straightening of a deviated septum.

The doctor also might recommend a tonsillectomy or other surgery to remove excess tissue. If you have only a mild or moderate degree of sleep apnea, and if your uvula and soft palate are involved in your obstructed breathing, then you might benefit from new laser treatment.


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