Overview of Snoring

Snoring is a common condition—in fact, most people snore to some degree. A snore is a sound produced while breathing through the mouth during sleep.

Snoring usually is not medically serious; however, loud snoring can disrupt sleep for both the person who snores and for anyone who shares sleeping space with the snorer. In some cases, breathing is hindered or stopped during snoring. This condition, which is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), requires medical treatment.

Snoring & Anatomy

Snoring occurs when muscles and other tissues in the mouth, throat, and back of the nose relax during sleep and breathing causes these structures to vibrate. As the structures relax, the airway narrows, making it more difficult for air to flow during breathing. The more turbulent the airflow, the louder the snoring becomes.

In sleep apnea, the airway becomes partially or completely blocked. People with obstructive sleep apnea stop breathing, often for several seconds to up to a minute or longer, repeatedly during sleep. OSA results in a pattern of falling asleep, snoring, hindered breathing, and waking. For some people, this pattern repeats as many as hundreds of times each night.

Incidence and Prevalence of Snoring

Approximately 45 percent of men and 30 percent of women regularly snore. Snoring usually gets worse with age. People of any age and weight can snore, but the condition usually worsens with age and people who are overweight tend to snore more often.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is more frequent in people over age 40 and is 7 to 10 times more common in men. Up to 60 percent of people who are elderly have obstructive sleep apnea.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 14 Sep 2009

Last Modified: 06 Oct 2015