Snoring can represent a health problem if it is associated with sleep disordered breathing including sleep apnea.  In the case of sleep disordered breathing, snoring may be a sign of mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea.  This can result in symptoms such as:

  • daytime fatigue
  • feeling of non-restorative sleep
  • headache
  • poor mental concentration
  • the need to take a nap during the day

What are some of the causes of snoring?

First, there are nasal causes of snoring.  These include nasal obstruction such as a deviated nasal septum, enlarged nasal turbinates, or nasal polyps. The second category of conditions is a partial obstruction in the pharynx or throat.  These include enlarged tonsils, excessive soft palatal tissue, as well as a tongue position that partially occludes the throat while sleeping. 

normal airway versus obstructive sleep apnea and snoring

Finally there are systemic causes of that include being overweight, drinking or eating close to bedtime, and excessive fatigue and tiredness.

What tests can be done to determine the cause?

A full upper airway examination can help determine the causes of snoring for particular individual.  If sleep-disordered breathing is suspected, a sleep study may help in determining the severity of the problem.  Depending on the results of the physical examination, imaging studies like a CT scan may be ordered.  For non-surgical causes, a referral to a sleep specialist may be done to discuss other treatment options.