10 Things Doctors Want You to Know About Snoring

  • Overweight Man Asleep In Bed Snoring
    Snoring is more than an annoyance.
    Despite the fact that snoring is the punchline of a multitude of jokes, snoring is no laughing matter. In fact, about 50% of people who snore actually have obstructive sleep apnea, a condition characterized by a lack of oxygen to the brain for short periods during sleep. Even snorers who don't have sleep apnea may face some health risks. Here are 10 essential facts about snoring from real doctors who treat snoring and other sleep disorders.
  • Senior man resting in bed
    1. “The older you are, the more likely you are to snore.”
    Approximately 40% of people over the age of 60 snore, and that number increases as people age. That's because people tend to gain weight with age, and the combined effects of excess weight and gravity can narrow the breathing passages. This restricts the free flow of air during sleep, leading to snoring. Loss of estrogen during menopause also makes snoring more likely in middle age and beyond. “The number one factor contributing to snoring is aging,” says Eric Kezirian, MD, a sleep surgeon and otolaryngology professor in Los Angeles.
  • Man with chest pain
    2. “Snoring may increase your risk of heart disease.”
    Sleep apnea has been shown to increase your risk of heart disease. But new research suggests even snorers who do not have sleep apnea may be more likely to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and cholesterol buildup in the arteries. "There's some evidence that the vibrations of snoring can affect the surrounding blood vessels of the head and neck and may even accelerate atherosclerosis," or hardening of the arteries, says Kathleen Yaremchuk, MD, chair of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
  • Woman on scale
    3. “Losing weight can decrease snoring.”
    Losing as little as five or 10 pounds can make a big difference in how much you snore, and may even stop your snoring all together. In fact, doctors routinely counsel patients to lose weight before attempting any other snoring interventions. "Intervening medically on somebody who needs to lose 10 pounds isn't exactly the best way to proceed if you can get them to lose weight first," says David Volpi, MD, an otolaryngologist in New York and founder of eos sleep, a center for diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders.
  • Man drinking pint of beer
    4. “Ditch before-bed alcohol for peaceful sleep.”
    You might like a glass of wine or a couple beers before bed, but that nightcap isn't helping you rest. Alcohol relaxes the muscles at the back of the throat and makes snoring more likely; it also leads to shallow, fragmented sleep. Your best bet is to avoid alcohol within three hours of bedtime, Dr. Kezirian says. He says a no-alcohol habit before bed is "a good idea for [decreasing] snoring and for sleep in general."
  • long-term-care-cost
    5. “Medical treatment for snoring usually isn't covered by insurance.”
    "Insurance companies have been slow to recognize the health risks of snoring, so they tend not to cover snoring-related procedures," says M. Boyd Gillespie, MD, professor and chairman of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the University of Tennessee-Memphis. Doctors may first recommend simple, low-cost anti-snoring interventions, such as losing weight and foregoing alcohol. It’s important to work with a doctor to determine what's causing your individual snoring, so you can work together to find the most cost-effective treatment.
  • Dentist Showing Patient Tooth Model
    6. “Oral appliances can help some people—but not all.”
    A quick internet search for snoring aids turns up dozens of oral appliances that promise to silence your snoring, with most resembling some kind of high-tech mouth guard. But such devices only work if your tongue is the primary source of your snoring problems, Dr. Volpi says. Plus, oral appliances “have to be very specific for the individual and their anatomy for it to be successful,” Dr. Yaremchuk says. Bottom line: don't buy an oral appliance online and expect it to stop your snoring. 
  • Surgeon
    7. “Nasal surgery is not a surefire fix for snoring.”
    Some people think nose surgery is the solution for snoring, but that's not necessarily the case. "If you have anatomical blockages in the nose, nasal surgery can certainly improve nasal breathing, reducing the need to open the mouth at night, which in turn reduces snoring," Dr. Gillespie says. Surgery should only be considered if an otolaryngologist has identified a structural problem in the nose—and even then, surgery alone may not be enough to silence the snore.
  • senior woman with head pain
    8. “Palate stiffening procedures can help but may lose effectiveness over time.”
    During sleep, the tissues of the soft palate–the area where the roof of the mouth blends into the throat–can relax and obstruct part of the airway. So-called palate stiffening procedures tighten up this tissue to prevent this blockage. Doctors use a variety of techniques, including surgical insertion of tiny, flexible rods and radiofrequency ablation, to stiffen the palate. These procedures can decrease snoring volume and intensity by about 50%, but most people find that snoring worsens again in a few years. “Palatal implants are a really great example of a small intervention that means a small result,” says Brian Rotenberg, MD, associate professor of otolaryngology - head and neck Surgery at Western University in London, Ontario.
  • man-sleeping-on-side
    9. “Combination snoring treatments show promise for patients.”
    Multiple parts of the nose and mouth can contribute to snoring, so treatments that target more than one area may be the most effective approach. Some doctors offer combination procedures. Depending on the causes of a patient's snoring, a patient may undergo nasal surgery, a palate stiffening procedure, and be fitted with an oral appliance all in one day. Available evidence shows combining procedures is safe and effective, and patients can see “synergistic benefits from multilevel therapy,” says Dr. Kezirian. 
  • woman-getting-restful-sleep
    10. “A snoring ‘cure’ may not be possible—but control is.”
    It's almost impossible to eliminate snoring, but that doesn't mean you and your partner have to tolerate it. Work with an otolaryngologist or sleep specialist who specializes in snoring, and don't be afraid to go back if snoring is still causing serious sleep interference. It can take time, but together you and your doctor can find the solution that works for you, and allow you and your partner to sleep easier.
Snoring | 10 Things Doctors Want You to Know About Snoring
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About The Author

Jennifer L.W. Fink, RN, BSN is a Registered Nurse-turned-writer. She’s also the creator of BuildingBoys.net and co-creator/co-host of the podcast On Boys: Real Talk about Parenting, Teaching & Reaching Tomorrow’s Men.
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Last Review Date: 2021 May 20
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