Glossary of Commonly Used Snoring Terms

 A comprehensive glossary of common terms used to describe and explain conditions and physiologies around snoring.

 Glossary of useful terms on snoring

 Airway - The path that air flows along to enter and exit the lungs. Normally, air goes in and out the mouth and nose. Once in the mouth, the air passes through the pharynx (back of the throat) and continues to the larynx (voice box), down the trachea and finally through the bronchi where it reaches the lungs.

Airway obstruction - When the airway is partially or fully blocked. An obstruction can occur at any point on the airway path. Snoring is caused by a vibration of soft tissue in your throat which can cause partial obstruction to your airway. 

Apnoea - First derived from the Greek word ‘apnous’ which means ‘without breath’. Its modern day meaning is the temporary or voluntary cessation of breathing. It can occur in some newborns and also during adulthood, most commonly as sleep apnoea. It can also be spelt apnea.

Breathing - The intake of air into the lungs and expelling it. Air flows through the airway, taken into the body through muscle contractions and to the lungs where respiration takes place. Air from the lungs is then exhaled back out the mouth and nose due to muscle relaxation.

Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) - A broad condition which encompasses several sleep disorders. Symptoms are persistent sleepiness, often combined with a general lack of energy, even during the day and after prolonged nighttime sleep. This can be caused by sleep apnea and disturbed sleep caused by snoring.

Insomnia - The inability to fall asleep, stay asleep or both, despite feelings of fatigue. Sufferers often wake up feeling tired and un-energised, which can lead to health issues, lack of concentration and imbalanced mood. Many adults experience insomnia at some stage of their lives but for most people, it is not persistent.

Nasal Passage - The channel in the nose which air flows down. During sleep we’re designed to breathe through the nose. If however, there’s a reason why air can’t flow easily through the nasal passage (and this could be due to the size of the nostrils, a collapse in the nasal passage, congestion or other obstruction), we are forced to breathe through the mouth. This can lead to snoring. 

Nasal Strips - An over the counter type of adhesive bandage with embedded splints that is applies horizontally across the bridge and sides of the nose. They are used to aid breathing at night and prevent snoring, as well as during certain sports where participants have to wear a mouthguard; a nasal strip can help improve breathing.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) - a condition where the walls of the throat relax and therefore narrow during sleep. This interrupts normal breathing and are either characterised as apnoea, where total blockage of the airway occurs for 10 seconds or more, or hypopnea, which is a partial blockage of more than 50% of the airway for 10 seconds or more. This is the most common form of sleep apnea.

Palate - The roof of the mouth which separates the nasal cavity from the oral cavity. It has two sections to it; the hard palate at the front of the mouth and the soft palate.

Sleeping pills - Also known as Hypnotic (from the Greek work Hypnos, to sleep), sleeping pills are a class of drug whose primary function is to initiate, sustain or lengthen sleep. They can be used to treat insomnia. They are often thought to reduce snoring but studies have shown that they can make this condition worse.

Somnoplasty - Derived from the Latin root somnus, meaning sleep, and the Greek word plastia, meaning moulding, somnoplasty is a 30-40 minute medical procedure undertaken to treat three conditions - snoring, nasal obstruction and obstructive sleep apnoea. When snoring is targeted, radio frequency ablation is used to shrink the tissues of the soft palate and uvula.

Tongue base snorer - The tongue is the muscle in your mouth used for tasting and mastication of food. If air is trying to get into your lungs whilst you sleep through a restricted airway and it vibrates the tissue at the base of your tongue, this is known as tongue base snoring. Sometimes a mouthguard can help reduce tongue based snoring.

Uvula - Hanging down at the back of your throat, the uvula is a projection of flesh from the soft palate. Whilst it is required in the pronunciation of certain consonants used in certain languages such as Hebrew and French, it’s exact function is unknown. It can contribute to snoring during sleep, if it is elongated.


If you or a partner suffers from snoring and it is interrupting sleep, don’t ignore it - lack of quality sleep can lead to many health concerns including lack of concentration, constant fatigue and even a higher risk of heart disease. Please see your healthcare professional of GP. As a temporary measure to reduce snoring, Asonor is an innovative and non-invasive nasal spray which works immediately by firming the muscles around the throat and thereby reducing the vibrations that cause snoring. Find out more here >