Other Causes of Snoring

A range of other issues can disrupt your ability to sleep. Some are easier to treat than others. If you’re suffering from one of the conditions below, seek the help you need ASAP so you can stop snoring and get back to a good night’s sleep.

Nasal Polyps

Nasal polyps are one cause of snoring that doesn’t get a lot of press. They’re overgrowths of the mucous membranes in the nasal cavity and sinuses. Nasal polyps are noncancerous in nature, but they do tend to occur in both nostrils. If they get too big, they can obstruct nasal air flow, which can result in snoring.

Nasal polyps are quite common: 40% of people will develop them at some point in life, and they are more likely in people who have cystic fibrosis, allergies, sensitivity to aspirin, or asthma. They’re also more common in smokers, and in men than in women.

Treatment for nasal polyps is some form of steroids, usually delivered via nasal spray. If the polyps are really severe, surgery may be better, but since polyps can recur even after surgery, post-operative steroid nasal spray may be recommended.

Sinusitis/Inflamed Nasal Passages

Blockage of the nasal passages isn’t necessary for restricted air flow. It’s also possible for the nasal cavity to be obstructed due to the nasal passages becoming generally inflamed due to sinusitis, a highly common illness that afflicts tens of millions of Americans at any given time.

Sinusitis can be diagnosed one of several ways:

  • Visual exam by a physician. Usually a quick exam is all that’s needed, but occasionally a doctor may need to perform a nasal endoscopy: a thin, flexible tube with a small camera on the end is inserted to allow the doctor to see the nasal passages more clearly.
  • In case of abnormalities or unexplained complications, a CT scan can reveal details about your sinuses and nasal area that aren’t always spotted with a simple physical exam.
  • An allergy test via a skin exam can reveal if allergens have triggered inflamed nasal passages.
  • Nasal and sinus samples. Usually lab tests aren’t necessary, but if your condition isn’t responding to treatment or is getting worse, tissue samples can point to a specific cause, such as a bacterial infection.

If you have sinusitis, your immune system will likely take care of it over time. In the meantime, if your inflamed nasal passages are causing you to snore, there are several treatment options you might consider:

  • Saline nasal spray several times a day can help keep your nasal passages clear.
  • Over-the-counter and prescription nasal decongestants come in a variety of forms, including tablets, capsules, liquids and nasal sprays. If you go this route, be careful not to use decongestants more than a few days to avoid the onset of more severe congestion.
  • Nasal corticosteroids can help prevent and treat inflammation.
  • Allergy medications can help reduce allergy-related inflammation.
  • Basic OTC painkillers like aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen can reduce swelling related to inflamed nasal passages.

Since sinusitis is generally viral and not bacterial in nature, antibiotics generally aren’t needed. However, severe or progressive sinusitis might require antibiotic treatment under a doctor’s care.

A Long Soft Palate

In some cases, the culprit is your anatomy. Specifically, if your soft palate is unusually long, the tissue in that region might be longer and more prone to blocking your airway at night, making you particularly prone to experience sleep apnea. If you have a particularly long soft palate, you have a few different treatment options.

  • Palate surgery can remove excess tissue from the soft palate.
  • Radiofrequency ablation uses radiofrequency energy to shrink excess tissue in the soft palate and tongue.
  • Laser-assisted uvulapalatoplasty (LAUP) uses laser energy to reduce tissue in the soft palate and improve airflow. This treatment is minimally invasive, non-surgical and can demonstrate immediate benefits in terms of reducing snoring.

Enlarged Tonsils or Lymph Nodes

Much like nasal polyps, the tonsils or lymph nodes can become inflamed and enlarged, blocking the airway and causing snoring. This condition is most frequently seen in children with snoring issues.

In extreme cases, a tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy is needed to prevent snoring. However, adoption of a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates and fat can help reduce swollen lymph nodes, opening the airway and reducing snoring.

Poor Muscle Tone in the Throat and Tongue

It’s one thing if tissue in the palate becomes loose. But what if tissue in your mouth becomes loose because your throat is out of shape? Believe it or not, lack of muscle tone in your throat and tongue can result in the tissue in those areas becoming loose enough to result in airway blockage and snoring.

Treatment for poor muscle tone is the same as with other parts of the body: exercise. There are specific daily exercises that can be done for the tongue and throat to improve muscle tone and reduce snoring. One particular exercise: regular focused singing of diverse sounds, including vowels, may improve overall muscle tone and cut down on snoring.

Nasal Deformities

Much like having an unusually long palate can contribute to snoring, your nasal anatomy can also be a factor.

  • A congenital issue such as a deviated septum or some other unusual nasal deformity from birth can prevent proper airflow while sleeping.
  • A low nasal bridge caused by a nose injury that didn’t heal properly, an infection, or cocaine abuse can restrict airflow, resulting in snoring.
  • As you age, portions of the nose can collapse inward, causing a partial obstruction of the nostrils.

Generally, the only permanent remedy for a nasal deformity is some sort of surgery, like a septoplasty in the case of a deviated septum. However, a range of over-the-counter devices have been developed to address these sorts of airflow issues.

Weight Gain

In pop culture, snoring is closely connected to being overweight, and for good reason. In many cases of obesity, enough fat collects in the neck and chin areas to act as an obstruction when lying down, resulting in snoring.

In this case, the obvious long-term solution is weight loss. However, a useful short-term fix is a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. This approach, which involves wearing a mask while sleeping, creates constant positive air pressure in the airway to help the breathing process. While it doesn’t treat the underlying cause, it’s a way to get around the symptom for a good night’s rest.

Alcohol Consumption

Many folks have a drink before going to bed to help them relax. However, what they fail to realize is that alcohol causes their mouth and throat muscles to really relax – in effect, reducing the muscle tone in those areas, and causing the same kind of airway obstruction that manifests as snoring.

While it may be tempting to have a drink before going to bed, the cons vastly outweigh the pros if it’s causing you to snore. And even if it’s not causing some form of sleep apnea, drinking before turning in for the night reduces REM sleep, which can ironically cause daytime fatigue. There are other things you can consume before going to bed besides alcohol that will actually contribute to getting a good night’s sleep.


Every spring, drugstores and pharmacies experience a run on antihistamines, decongestants, cough drops and other over-the-counter medications by all those poor folks who just can’t stop sneezing. As allergy sufferers can readily attest, allergies cause inflammation in the throat and nasal passages. If it gets bad enough, it can cause enough airway obstruction to cause snoring.

If your allergies are more seasonal in nature, you’re probably suffering from seasonal allergic rhinitis – a.k.a. hay fever – brought on by excess airborne pollen and mold. If your allergy symptoms are present year-round, you may have perennial allergic rhinitis, which can be caused by animal fur, household dust mites and sometimes by excess airborne mold.

Many cases of allergies are fairly easily treated via the OTC medications listed above, and once you can get the inflammation to subside, the snoring tends to work itself out. More severe cases may require some sort of a nasal steroid spray. However, if the normal array of medications won’t make a dent, you may require treatment from an allergist for a stronger, more specialized treatment such as prescription anti-allergy injections or environmental control measures you can implement in your home and surroundings. Once you get the allergies under control, your good night’s sleep should return.

Get Tested for Sleep Apnea

Concerned that you may be suffering from sleep apnea? Contact us today for an at-home sleep study.