Approximately 1 in 2 people snore. A number of factors can contribute to snoring.

The physiological cause is vibrations in your airway. The relaxed tissues in your upper respiratory tract vibrate when you breathe, producing the characteristic snoring sound.

The source of your snoring may result from:

  • poor muscle tone of the tongue and throat
  • too much tissue in your throat
  • a soft palate or an uvula that’s too long
  • blocked nasal passages

Snoring is often harmless. If you snore occasionally, you may not need an intervention.

More frequent or chronic snoring may be a sign of a serious health condition, such as sleep apnea. If left untreated, this could lead to sleep deprivation, heart disease, and hypertension.

Knowing why or how often you snore can help you determine the best treatment option. Depending on your needs, over-the-counter (OTC) medications, medical devices, and even lifestyle changes may help relieve your symptoms.

Be sure to talk with your doctor about your concerns. They can go over your options and help you figure out the best next steps.

You may be able to reduce or prevent future snoring if you:

1. Try an OTC medication

Intranasal decongestants, such as oxymetazoline (Zicam), and intranasal steroid sprays, such as fluticasone (Cutivate), can help alleviate snoring. This is especially true if your snoring is caused by a cold or allergies.

2. Avoid alcohol

Alcohol relaxes the muscles in your throat, which may contribute to snoring. Try skipping alcohol consumption altogether, especially in the hours before you go to sleep.

3. Sleep on your side

Sleeping on your back may cause you to snore. When relaxed, your tongue can fall back into your throat and cause your airway to become smaller, leading to snoring. Sleeping on your side can help prevent your tongue from blocking your airway.

4. Use a mouthpiece

If OTC medications aren’t working, you may want to consider a mouthpiece. Removable mouthpieces can be fitted to your mouth to keep your jaw, tongue, and soft palate in place to prevent snoring. You’ll need to have regular checkups with your dentist to make sure the mouthpiece is working over time.

5. Lose weight

Being overweight has been linked to snoring. Implementing a healthy diet and getting frequent exercise may help you shed pounds and reduce your snoring. If you’re overweight, talk with your doctor about developing a diet and exercise plan. In addition to reduced snoring, maintaining a healthy weight can help control hypertension, improve lipid profiles, and decrease your risk of diabetes.

6. Use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine

A CPAP machine pumps air into your airway overnight, decreasing symptoms of snoring and sleep apnea. It also helps keep your airway open. In order for the apparatus to work, you need to wear an oxygen mask while sleeping. This may take some time to get used to, but it can help clear your symptoms right away. If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, your insurance may pay for your CPAP machine.

7. Explore surgical options

There are also several surgical options that may help you stop snoring. Some involve modifying the airway. This can be done by inserting filament into your soft palate, trimming the excess tissue in your throat, or shrinking the tissue in your soft palate. Talk to your doctor to see if surgical interventions are right for you.

Check out: 10 things that happen to your body when you lose sleep »

There are many reasons why you may snore. Because of this, there isn’t a single diagnosis or treatment plan for snoring.

These factors may put you at higher risk for snoring:

  • Age: Snoring is more common as you get older.
  • Gender: Men are more likely to snore than women.
  • Weight: Being overweight causes more tissue to develop in the throat, which can contribute to snoring.
  • A small airway: You may be more likely to snore if you have a narrow upper respiratory tract.
  • Genetics: You may be at higher risk for sleep apnea if someone in your family also has it.
  • Infections or allergies: Infections and seasonal allergies can cause inflammation in your throat, which can lead to snoring.
  • Alcohol consumption: Drinking alcohol may relax your muscles, leading to snoring.
  • Sleep position: Snoring may be more frequent when sleeping on your back.

It may be difficult for you to determine how often you snore and the source of your snoring. If you have a bed partner or roommate, ask them about your symptoms and snoring frequency. You can also identify some symptoms of snoring on your own.

Common snoring symptoms include:

  • breathing from the mouth
  • having nasal congestion
  • waking with a dry throat in the morning

The following symptoms may be a sign that your snoring is more frequent or severe:

  • waking frequently during sleep
  • napping frequently
  • having difficulty with memory or concentrating
  • feeling sleepy during the day
  • having a sore throat
  • gasping for air or choking during sleep
  • experiencing chest pain or high blood pressure

If your snoring is frequent, talk to your doctor. You may have sleep apnea or another serious condition. Your doctor will be able to conduct tests or even a sleep study to determine your snoring patterns.

After your doctor establishes your snoring frequency, you can work together to create a treatment plan to help with your symptoms.

Learn more: Sleep disorders »

Snoring is a fairly common occurrence in adults. It can range in severity. If you snore infrequently or at certain times of the year, such as allergy season, your snoring may not require an intervention.

If your snore regularly and it affects your energy level during the day, or if you have other more serious signs of chronic snoring, discuss the condition with your doctor.

Keep reading: What you should know about oversleeping, plus tips for better sleep »