Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Snoring

Snoring can have any number of causes related to the structure of your nose, mouth and throat as well as your lifestyle habits.

Physiological causes of snoring include:

  • Problems with the shape of the nose, throat and jaw
  • Swelling of the uvula and soft palate
  • Swelling of the tonsils and adenoids
  • Enlarged tongue or base of the tongue
  • Congestion from a cold or allergies

Lifestyle causes of snoring include:

  • Gaining weight
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Taking sleeping pills
  • Taking antihistamines
  • Being pregnant
  • Not getting enough sleep

Diagnosing snoring

If the cause of your snoring isn’t evident from a physical exam, your physician may order one of these exams to look at the internal structure of your nasal cavity, mouth and throat:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: This test combines X-ray and computer technology to produce detailed cross-sectional images.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan: This test creates detailed images using a large magnet, a computer and radiofrequencies. Unlike computed tomography (CT or CAT) scans or X-rays, MRI does not use radiation.
  • Endoscopy: An endoscope (a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera on the end) is inserted through your nostrils and progressed through your nasal passages and sinuses.

If you are concerned that your snoring is a sign of sleep apnea, you may need to talk to a board-certified sleep medicine specialist about a diagnosis. Tests may include:

  • In-lab overnight sleep study: You will sleep at the lab with sensors hooked up to various parts of your body to record your brain waves, heartbeat, breathing and movement.
  • Home sleep apnea test: This sleep study lets you sleep in the comfort of your own home while a small monitor collects data as you sleep.

After your sleep study or home sleep apnea test, a follow-up appointment will be scheduled to discuss your results. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, your sleep medicine specialist will discuss treatment options with you.