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Causes of Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Topic Overview

Enlarged tissues in the nose, mouth, or throat can block the airway, causing snoring or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The airway can be blocked by:

  • Enlarged tonsils and adenoids (the most common cause of sleep apnea in children).
  • A larger-than-normal uvula (the small, finger-shaped piece of tissue that hangs down from the roof of the mouth into the throat). See a picture of the tonsils, adenoids, and uvula.
  • Fat deposits around the neck. These can temporarily block your airway when you lie on your back, especially if you are overweight.
  • A large tongue, which may block your airway when you are lying down.
  • Nasal congestion that is caused by colds or allergies. The tissues in the nose may swell. People who have allergies may develop growths in the nose called nasal polyps, which also may block the nasal passage.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Mark A. Rasmus, MD - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Sleep Medicine
Last Revised June 25, 2013

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