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Snoring: symptoms, causes and treatment

All you need to know about snoring

Snoring occurs when the tissues inside the airways (nose and throat) begin to vibrate. This phenomenon is the result of air passing through the airways when they are narrowed. Several events affect snoring, including: alcohol consumption, medication, the position of the sleeper and the phase of sleep which the individual is in. It can cause sleep problems and discomfort for partners and family members in general. Snoring, although harmless at first glance, can be the underlying cause of a more serious health problem like sleep apnea. It is possible to treat snoring by non-invasive treatment or with a surgical procedure. 

Who is most likely to snore? 

Anyone can snore. It is often hereditary. Both men and women can snore, and it can get worse as they gain weight or simply age. People with a neck size > 17 cm are more likely to snore, however there is no typical body type for snoring. 


You are more likely to snore if:

  • You are over 50 years old
  • You are a man
  • You are overweight
  • You drink alcohol
  • You often have a congested nose

Although there are certain predispositions to snoring, it is very common for people who don’t normally snore to start snoring after catching a viral illness, drinking alcohol or taking certain medications. 

Causes of snoring

Snoring occurs when the soft tissues of the nose and throat begin to vibrate when you breathe. During sleep, all muscles relax, causing the airway to collapse, reducing the flow of air. With each inhalation and exhalation, the incoming or outgoing air causes the airway to vibrate as it passes. It can also be caused by breathing disorders such as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is characterized by pauses in breathing which last a few seconds during sleep. The obstruction of the airway prevents the individual from being able to breathe properly. 

When is snoring a more serious problem? 

Certain symptoms can help you determine whether you need to see a sleep specialist. It is mostly benign and does not require any intervention. However, if you wake up often at night, feel short of breath or snore unusually loudly, you may have sleep apnea. 


There are other symptoms that you may need to be aware of as well. If you have regular headaches, suffer from depression, urinate more frequently during the night, or your nights are punctuated by micro-awakenings, you may have an undiagnosed condition. 

If I snore, do I have sleep apnea?

Not necessarily. According to a study from StatsCan, 45% of adults snore regularly, but only 6.4% of them suffer from sleep apnea. 


The major difference between snoring and sleep apnea is that if you have sleep apnea, you stop breathing several times during the night. Factors such as nasal congestion or the shape of your mouth and throat can cause occasional snoring. Sleep apnea is a much more serious condition – it is linked to health problems such as cardiovascular disease, and should be diagnosed and treated by a physician.

Treating snoring

It is important to determine the cause of your snoring. You can discuss your snoring with a sleep specialist or take a sleep test to get a deeper understanding of your particular case. 


If there is no underlying health problem causing the snoring, you can improve your snoring by:

  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Sleeping on your side or with your upper body elevated
  • Lose weight

If sleep apnea is the cause of your snoring, our sleep specialists can create a treatment plan that is right for you. Some treatments for sleep apnea include:

It is very important to get checked by a doctor if you think you have sleep apnea or another sleep disorder. Some people may be embarrassed to admit to their health care provider that they snore. Others may consider a few sleepless nights to be just an inconvenience and ignore the symptoms, not realizing the dangers that it can pose. Treatment is the key to better rest and overall health.


Don’t ignore your snoring!