Treatment for Snoring

In most cases, lifestyle changes and over-the-counter products are useful in treating mild cases of snoring. Patients often are advised to

  • Avoid back sleeping
  • Lose weight if overweight/obese
  • Avoid alcohol, sedatives, and narcotics, especially before bedtime

If snoring is caused by nasal congestion (such as from a cold or allergies), a saline nasal spray, nasal decongestant, or prescription inhaled steroid spray might be helpful.

More serious cases of snoring and sleep apnea can be treated with devices:

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)—Patients using this positive pressure therapy sleep with a mask over their nose and mouth. The mask is connected to device that blows constant pressurized air that keeps the airway open and prevents stoppages in breathing and snoring. Approximately 95% of people with sleep apnea find CPAP effective, but many find it difficult to use. If a patient stops using the device, symptoms return.
  • Bi-level positive airway pressure (Bi-PAP)—In this variation of CPAP, air blows through the mask at two different pressures. Air pressure that is required to prevent respiratory obstruction is typically less on expiration than on inspiration, bi-level positive airway pressure devices are designed to reduce the pressure to a preset level on exhalation. This positive pressure therapy often is used when the patient does not tolerate CPAP.
  • Appliances—Some patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea find it helpful to wear a dental appliance in the mouth during sleep. A molded device can hold the jaw, tongue, and/or soft palate in such a way that there is no airway obstruction. This method is not as effective as positive pressure therapy, but some patients prefer it because it is less invasive.

Severe cases of snoring and sleep apnea that do not respond to other treatments may require surgery. Surgical options depend on the location of the narrowing or blockage in the airway.

Sometimes, the narrowing or blockage happens in more than one place, so a combination of procedures is used. Removing tissue widens the airway and decreases the vibrations that cause snoring.

Some of the more common surgical procedures include the following:

  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)—In this procedure, surgeons tighten the throat and palate tissues to increase airway space.
  • Somnoplasty (also called radiofrequency tissue ablation)—This procedure involves shrinking tissue at the back of the throat with a low-intensity radiofrequency signal or heated electrode applied to the soft palate.
  • Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP)—This procedure often is used to treat loud snoring and mild obstructive sleep apnea. In LAUP, doctors use a laser beam to remove the uvula and the surrounding tissue.
  • Tonsillectomy—This procedure involves removal of the tonsils, which are located in the back of the throat. Tonsillectomy often is performed with adenoidectomy (removal of the adenoids).
  • Maxillomandibular advancement (MMA)—In MMA, the upper and lower jaws are surgically moved forward, also moving the tongue and soft palate forward, creating a wider airflow space.
  • Palate implants—These procedures involve using a material called Dacron to create palate implants that stiffen tissue and reduce vibration during breathing.
  • Nasal procedures—There are several procedures that can be performed to improve airflow when narrowing or obstruction is in the nose. Examples include using radio frequency energy to shrink tissue in the nasal passages, surgical removal of nasal polyps, and correction of a deviated septum.

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

Published: 14 Sep 2009

Last Modified: 06 Oct 2015