What is snoring?

Snoring may not be a problem for you, but that's because you're the one who's getting the sleep. Don't let your trumpeting lay waste to your love life, let The Mix help you sleep peacefully.

Two young people are walking down the street talking about snoring

Why do people snore?

In basic terms, snoring is the noise which is made by some sleepers as they breathe. This is due to blockages in the nasal passage and upper airways which vibrate as you breathe in and out. Blockages can be caused by a number of different factors:

  • Common colds, infection or allergies can lead to a buildup of mucus congestion.
  • Physical blockages known as nasal polyps. These are small growths within the air passages. Your GP can refer you to an ear, nose and throat specialist, who can make a thorough examination and recommend the most effective treatment.

Snoring and sleep disorders

In rare cases, snoring can be a symptom of a more serious (and sometimes fatal) condition called obstructive sleep apnoea. Sufferers fall asleep normally, but then the soft tissues at the back of the throat fall inwards and block your airway.

As a result, you might stop breathing for seconds and even minutes at a time, before the brain kick starts the system with a series of sharp inhalations and noisy snores. As your body is routinely deprived of oxygen, there could be worrying long-term repercussions, such as heart disease.

In rare cases, snoring from obstructive sleep apnoea can cause a swollen uvula, making the problem even worse. Learn more about sleep apnoea and other sleep disorders here.

How to stop snoring

  • Don’t smoke: Smoking can cause mucus congestion to build in the throat. This obstructs the airways and can twang about as you inhale and exhale. Struggling to give it up? See our article on how to quit smoking here.
  • Avoid alcohol: Going to bed after a drink is guaranteed to kick start the snore engine. Why? Because alcohol relaxes the soft palate (the tissues at the back of the mouth). The more slack they become, the more noisily they flap about as air passes in and out of the lungs.
  • Trash the tranquillisers and sleeping pills: Both drugs slow down the central nervous system, which can leave your tongue floppy and throat muscles loose.
  • Improve your fitness: If your neck size measures 17 inches or more, then chances are the muscle tone around the throat is likely to be flaccid and prone to vibrating during sleep. If you’re up for getting fitter then that could help you tone up and reduce the snoring. Read our article on how to get fit here.
  • Keep your room humid: Lack of humidity dries out the mucous membranes in the nose and throat. Hanging a damp cloth over your bedroom radiator should keep the air from getting too dry.

Best sleep position for people who snore

Try to avoid sleeping on your back if you snore. Sleep facing the ceiling and your jaw is more likely to hang open, which makes snoring more likely. As a solution, try clipping a couple of clothes pegs onto the back of your jim-jams, making it uncomfortable to roll onto your back when you’re out for the count.

Side sleeping is the best sleep position to reduce snoring. This is because when you sleep on your side it reduces the compression of your airways.

Surgery for snoring

If nothing silences your snores, and your ear, nose and throat specialist recommends an operation, here are the most common procedures:

  • Take out the tonsils: Effectively removes that element of your throat which vibrates so noisily as you breathe during sleep.
  • Strip the uvula: This is the dangly bit at the back of your mouth. In some people it can flap about like washing in the wind and cause snoring. By removing a strip of the uvula, the resulting scar can stiffen the whole thing up so it doesn’t move so freely as you slumber. The operation makes swallowing painful for some days afterwards, but at least you won’t get jabbed in the ribs at night any longer. 
  • Fix a deviated septum: It is not uncommon for people to have the air passages in their nose blocked by the dividing line between the two nostrils, also known as the septum. If this is causing you trouble you should be able to get it fixed on the NHS.

Next Steps


sleep| snoring

By Holly Turner

Updated on 11-Oct-2022