Sleep Apnea
.  What is It?
.  .  Two Types
.  .  Obstructive
.  .  Central
.  .  Snoring
.  Common
.  Serious
.  Treatable
.  Under-Diagnosed
.  Getting Tested
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Next PagePrevious Page Snoring

Snoring is common, sometimes serious, and usually treatable. In some cases, caution must be used in treating snoring.


Surveys show that 40% of American adults snore frequently. The same factors that promote obstructive sleep apnea also promote snoring. These include weight gain, alcohol use, and certain types of jaw anatomy.

Between 3% and 12% of children snore. Enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids cause most snoring in children.

Sometimes Serious
Snoring can be a sign that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is present. Thus, snoring should not be viewed lightly, nor treated as a joke.
  • 25% of snorers have OSA
  • 75% of snorers do not have OSA

  • 70% of persons with OSA snore
  • 30% of persons with OSA do not snore

Snoring can also disrupt sleep in people nearby the snorer. The "snoring spouse syndrome" affects 20% of women in the United States.

Treating snoring can improve sleep in the bed-partner. After studying women sleeping with their snoring husband, researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that treating the husband's snoring resulted in:

  • 62 extra minutes of sleep each night for the wife.
  • half as many awakenings for the wife during the night.
Snoring in children is always abnormal.
Hundreds of anti-snoring inventions have been proposed, many of dubious value. Several effective treatments are available, however.
  • Many, but not all, cases of snoring are related to weight gain. Losing weight can be a very effective form of snoring therapy.

  • In cases where a person snores only while on their back, snoring can be treated by keeping the person off their back. The simplest type of "positional therapy" is putting a tennis ball in a sock, and pinning the sock to the back of the person's pajama top.

  • In more advanced cases of snoring, positional therapy ceases to work: the person snores in all positions. In such cases, an oral appliance which repositions the tongue or the jaw can be tried. Some appliances are available over-the-counter, and some appliances must be dispensed by dentists.

    Many authorities recommend routine assessment for sleep apnea after oral appliance therapy has been applied. See the caution below.

  • Surgery is a highly effective treatment for snoring. In children, removing the tonsils and adenoids is the most common type of surgery. In adults, a variety of surgical procedures are used.

    In addition to the obvious pain and discomfort of the operation, there are other complications which should be discussed with the surgeon.

    Many authorities recommend routine assessment for sleep apnea after surgery. See the caution below.

Further information is available on the sleep apnea treatment page.
Snoring, and certain details of snoring, can be a valuable early-warning alarm that sleep apnea is present. Treating snoring can remove this warning system.

Just as seeing smoke is a warning that a fire may be burning, hearing snoring is a warning that sleep apnea may be present. And just as smokeless fires may be discovered late, with unfortunate consequences, so too may snore-free sleep apnea.

Thus, when surgery or oral appliances are used to treat snoring, it is important to check for sleep apnea on a regular basis afterwards.

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Last modified 15:29 Pacific on 21 Jun 2004.