Introduction 

Snoring is where a person makes a snorting or rattling noise when they breathe during sleep.

The noise comes from the soft palate and tissue in the mouth, nose or throat vibrating.

Some people snore infrequently and the sound they make isn't particularly loud, while others may snore every night, loud enough to be heard in the next room.

Healthcare professionals use grading systems to assess a person’s snoring. The higher the grade, the more severe the snoring is.

Read more about the symptoms of snoring.

When to see your GP

You should see a GP if your snoring is affecting aspects of your life, such as causing excessive tiredness and poor concentration, or relationship problems with your partner.

Excessive daytime sleepiness should be taken seriously, because it increases the risk of a road traffic accident. The Department for Transport estimates that one in five road traffic accidents are caused by excessive sleepiness. It can also cause accidents with the use of machinery and vehicles, such as cranes and forklift trucks.

Snoring can sometimes indicate a more serious related condition called obstructive sleep apnoea, where a person’s airways repeatedly become partially or totally blocked for about 10 seconds throughout the night. See your GP if you wake up gasping or choking during the night.

Read more about how snoring is diagnosed.

If your child snores, you should also speak to your GP.

Who snores?

As many as one in four people in England snore regularly.

Snoring can affect people of all ages, including children, although it's more common in adults aged 40-60. Twice as many men than women snore.

What causes snoring?

Snoring is caused by the vibration of soft tissue in your head and neck as you breathe in and out during sleep. This includes the nasal passages, the soft palate in the roof of your mouth, and your tonsils.

While you sleep, your airways relax and narrow. This affects air pressure within your airways and causes the tissue to vibrate. This can also occur if your airways are partially blocked for example, if you have a cold.

Your chances of snoring can also be increased by factors such as being overweight, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, and smoking.

Read more about the causes of snoring.

Treating snoring

Treatment can improve snoring in some cases, but a complete cure isn't always possible.

Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, are usually recommended first. 

Anti-snoring devices, such as mouth guards or nasal strips, may help prevent snoring.

Surgery may be an option if anti-snoring devices don't help. This often involves removing the soft tissue that causes snoring, or preventing the tissue from vibrating by causing it to tighten.

Surgery for snoring is usually regarded as a treatment of last resort. It's important to be aware that surgery can often have a limited effect that doesn't last longer than one or two years. It can also cause unpleasant side effects or complications.

Read more about treatments for snoring.




Snoring and sleep apnoea

An expert explains the difference between snoring and sleep apnoea, and people talk about the methods they've used to get a good night's sleep.

Media last reviewed: 18/03/2013

Next review due: 18/03/2015

Page last reviewed: 24/10/2014

Next review due: 24/10/2016