Snoring – time to get it under control

Dr Luke Powles
Associate Clinical Director, Health Clinics Bupa Global and UK
05 March 2024
Next review due March 2027

You might not know if you snore or not. But if you ever share a room with someone, chances are they will tell you! Although snoring is usually more of a nuisance than a serious health problem, it’s still worth getting it under control. In this article, I talk about why you might snore and what to do about it.

A dog asleep with its owner.

Why do I snore?

Around four in ten of us snore, so it’s pretty common. Snoring happens when the muscles around your airways relax. This causes your airway to narrow which makes the surrounding tissues more likely to vibrate. Although this happens to everybody to some degree, certain things make it more likely.

Some of these are under your control, and some aren’t. They include the following.

  • Getting older. You’re more likely to snore as you get older, as your muscle tone decreases.
  • Being overweight or having a large neck size. Having a lot of fat around your neck can narrow your airway more.
  • Smoking. This can irritate the lining of your nostrils and throat, causing inflammation and congestion.
  • Drinking alcohol or taking sedating medicines. This can make your muscles relax more than usual.
  • Sleeping on your back. When you lie flat on your back, your tongue is more likely to fall back into your throat, restricting your airway and causing you to snore.
  • Having nasal congestion. This may be due to allergies or an infection such as the common cold.
  • Having large tonsils and adenoids. This can restrict your airway.
  • Certain conditions may affect your airways or the shape of your face. These can include acromegaly, underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) and Down’s syndrome.

Does snoring matter?

Snoring itself isn’t harmful. But it may be a sign that you have a more serious condition called obstructive sleep apnoea. If you have this condition, your partner may notice you stopping breathing for a few seconds while you’re asleep, this can be followed by gasping or choking.

You may also feel extremely sleepy during the day. If you think you’ve got sleep apnoea, don’t drive or use heavy machinery until you’ve seen a doctor. It’s important to get treatment for this condition, so a doctor will want to rule it out if you have trouble with snoring.

The most significant effects of snoring are likely to be on your loved ones – snoring can put a real strain on any relationship. It might make you feel anxious about social situations too, such as staying with friends, going on holiday, or travelling.

How can I stop snoring?

Unfortunately, you can’t just stop snoring at will. The good news is that there are many things you can do to reduce it. These include the following:

In addition to reducing your snoring, many of these things will have other health benefits too.

If you've tried the measures above and your snoring is still causing problems, it’s worth talking to your GP. Try to get a recording of your snoring to share with your GP, for example on your phone.

If there turns out to be an underlying reason for your snoring, there are various treatments they may suggest. These might include a nasal spray, or allergy treatment if your snoring is related to congestion. They may also advise you to see a dentist to see if a mouth appliance can help. Or they might refer you to a surgeon if there’s an underlying cause that surgery can help with, however these surgeries might not always stop you snoring.

Do you know how healthy you truly are? Bupa health assessments give you a clear overview of your health and a view of any future health risks. You'll receive a personal lifestyle action plan with health goals to reach for a happier, healthier you.

Dr Luke Powles
Dr Luke Powles
Associate Clinical Director, Health Clinics Bupa Global and UK



Julia Ebbens, Health Content Editor at Bupa UK

    • Respiratory medicine. Oxford handbook of general practice. Oxford Medicine Online., accessed 28 February 2024
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