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April 29, 2024 8 min read

Chronic snoring can seriously impact your health and well-being, disrupting the sleep of both you and your bed partner—but is snoring surgery a treatment option worth considering? The answer? It depends. 

Snoring happens when your airways are blocked, leading to a vibrating sound as you push air through your passageway. Snoring is also often a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a sleep disorder in which the tissues in the back of your throat block your airway during sleep. Surgery for snoring may help you find relief, but it’s usually recommended when all other treatments haven’t worked out. 

Snoring causes diagram

Read on to learn more about the different types of snoring surgeries. We'll cover everything from risks to recovery and effective alternatives. Here's everything you need to know about finding snoring relief. 

Understanding Snoring Surgery 

Types of Snoring Surgeries

Surgery can sometimes reduce snoring and treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Here are a few common surgeries your healthcare provider might recommend. 

  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is the most common surgery for sleep apnea. The procedure removes or restructures some of the throat's soft tissues. This rearrangement could include the soft palate, tonsils, or the uvula (the fleshy ball hanging in the back of the throat).
  • Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) is a surgery that uses a laser to remove part of or the entire uvula or soft palate.  
  • Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a procedure that utilizes a laser with low-frequency radio waves. This laser emits small amounts of heat that shrink and tighten your tongue, nose, or soft palate tissues. 

How Snoring Surgeries Work 

But how exactly do these snoring procedures work to cure snoring? Here’s a breakdown of each type. 

How UPPP Surgery Works

Snorers tend to have constricted passageways, so when air moves past the throat tissues, they vibrate and rattle. This effect produces the sounds we know as snoring. By removing soft tissue in your throat, UPPP surgery widens your airway. It makes breathing easier, thus helping to eliminate snoring. 

How LAUP Surgery Works

LAUP surgery is more conservative than traditional uvulopalatopharyngoplasty because the tonsils remain in place. Patients usually report experiencing less pain during the procedure. The main goal of this surgery is to shorten and reshape the palate and uvula, clearing the airway. 

How RFA Surgery Works

Considered minimally invasive, RFA usually takes five to eight treatment sessions that last less than 45 minutes. This treatment aims to prevent the base of the tongue from obstructing the airway and create more space to breathe. 

Effectiveness and Risks of Snoring Surgery 

Success Rates of Snoring Surgery

But is surgery effective for snoring? Let’s look at what the research says for each procedure. 

Snoring surgery success statistics

Starting with  UPPP,  several studies show the surgery to be successful in the short-term, reducing or eliminating snoring in 75% to 95% of the participants. However, after 13 months, the success rate decreased to 46% of patients. 

Patients who underwent  LAUP surgery experienced similar results, with  reports showing a success rate of 70% to 95% post-operation. However, limited data exists on this treatment's medium- to long-term results.  

Following a similar trend,  research shows that patients who underwent  RFA surgery  on their soft palate saw a significant decrease in snoring intensity immediately after the operation. But in the long run, nearly all patients had a relapse in their snoring. 

Based on the studies above, research suggests that while snoring procedures effectively reduce snoring in the short term, they are not the most effective long-term treatment. 

Potential Risks and Complications 

While complications are rare, potential surgical risks for snoring include the following: 

  • Pain and soreness
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Ongoing discomfort, like feeling as if something is stuck in your throat
  • Problems swallowing
  • Difficulty eating
  • Sore or dry throat
  • Changes in voice
  • Injury to teeth, tongue, lips
  • Breathing trouble

 More intricate snoring surgeries like UPPP also require undergoing anesthesia and staying in a hospital for the night, which can also be a drawback for snorers. 

Preparing for Snoring Surgery 

Are You a Candidate for Snoring Surgery? 

Speaking with a healthcare professional is the first step in deciding if snoring surgery is right for you. Your doctor will ask questions and perform evaluations to see if you're a good candidate. Depending on your condition, they may also recommend sleep studies or imaging. 

Here are some standard criteria your doctor may look at to determine if you’re a good candidate for snoring surgery: 

  • The severity and frequency of your snoring and if it's considerably impacting the quality of your life or your sleep partner's
  • If you have any structural abnormalities or anatomical conditions like an enlarged tongue or tonsil
  • If other snoring and sleep apnea treatments, like mouthpieces and positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy, have failed or you haven't been able to tolerate them well. 
  • Your overall health and if you have any pre-existing conditions that might not be safe for undergoing surgery or anesthesia

What to Expect Before, During, and After Surgery

While your circumstances will determine the specific details of what will happen with your snoring surgery, here's a general overview of what to expect: 

Pre-Operative Preparations

As mentioned above, your doctor may run a few assessments, like blood tests, imaging, etc., to ensure you're in good health for the surgery. They'll also discuss the procedure's potential risks and benefits and suggest alternative treatments. In the days leading up to your surgery, your doctor may also recommend not taking any medication, stopping smoking, drinking soothing beverages for your throat, and getting plenty of rest. 

The Surgical Process

Most surgeries for snoring require anesthesia, so you'll likely be unconscious during the procedure. The duration and what to expect during the surgery will depend on what type you'll be undergoing. Your doctor can give you the play-by-play for surgery day once you determine your treatment. 

Postoperative Care and Recovery 

After the surgery, you'll likely spend some time in a recovery room. If you've undergone anesthesia, the healthcare professionals will monitor your vital signs as you wake up. Depending on what type of snoring surgery you've done, you may have to spend the night in the hospital. Before you leave, you'll be given a schedule for follow-up appointments. 

Recovery and Post-Surgery Care 

Tips for a Smooth Recovery 

It's common to experience some pain and discomfort after your surgery. Your doctor will likely prescribe pain management measures such as medications to help you during this period. They should also give you guidelines for recovery from snoring surgery, such as restricting your activity and getting plenty of rest. They may also recommend getting plenty of hydration and a post-surgery diet of soft and non-irritating foods, staying away from spicy, hot, and acidic options. 

Long-Term Care and Lifestyle Adjustments 

Ongoing care is essential to maximize your surgery's effectiveness and prevent snoring from reoccurring. First, make sure to adhere to all of your doctor's postoperative instructions. Attending your follow-up appointments is crucial to monitoring your progress and quickly addressing any concerns arising after surgery. Your doctor may also recommend specific lifestyle changes such as regularly exercising, eating a particular diet, changing your sleeping position, or managing your stress. 

Alternatives to Surgery 

Non-Surgical Treatments for Snoring

If you’re not quite ready to go under the knife, there are other effective alternatives to surgery for snoring. Here are a few common non-surgical treatment options. 

Non-surgical treatments for snoring
  • Anti-snoring pillows - Changing your sleeping position is one of the most effective and easiest ways to relieve snoring without surgery.  Research shows that sleeping on your back can cause your tongue to block your airways.  Anti-snoring pillows, like  MedCline’s Sleep Solutions, support proper spine alignment and keep you comfortably in the doctor-recommended side position for snoring. Our medically backed design elevates your head, neck, and shoulders so your airways stay open while you sleep. 
  • CPAP therapy - This non-surgical treatment is the gold standard for treating snoring caused by OSA. As the name suggested, this treatment involves using a  CPAP machine that provides constant air pressure to your throat to keep your airways free. 
  • Oral appliance therapy - For snorers with OSA who don’t tolerate CPAP therapy well, a mouth guard can help move the jaw forward or keep your tongue from blocking your passageways while you sleep.

Lifestyle Changes and Home Remedies 

Lifestyle changes and healthy habits can also provide natural snoring relief without surgery. For instance,  maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can help prevent or reduce snoring. When you have extra weight around your neck, it can block your upper airways when you lie down. Getting outside to exercise can also help your circadian rhythm. 

Establishing  good sleep habits like a regular sleep-wake schedule can help support your circadian rhythm. This produces a deeper, less disrupted sleep. Other healthy sleep habits include swapping out your screens for a calming activity like reading at least an hour before bed. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Is there a surgery to stop snoring? 

Surgeries like uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty, and radiofrequency ablation can help reduce or stop snoring in the short term. However, research suggests that they’re not an effective long-term treatment for snoring. 

Will tonsil removal stop snoring? 

Removing an enlarged tonsil that blocks your airway through a tonsillectomy can help some adults find relief from snoring. However,  research shows having your tonsils removed as a child doesn’t reduce the likelihood of becoming a snorer as an adult. 

What are the downsides of sleep apnea surgery? 

Some of the downsides of sleep apnea surgery include potential complications like bleeding and infection. It's also a more invasive treatment as it requires that you undergo anesthesia. Studies also show that it may not be the most effective long-term solution as the snoring intensity and frequency tend to return over time. 

What is the most successful snoring surgery? 

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty and laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty have high short-term success rates, with up to 95% of patients experiencing snoring relief post-surgery. 

How can I stop snoring naturally? 

Using an anti-snore pillow and sleeping on your side is one of the easiest ways to stop snoring naturally. Healthy lifestyle changes like good sleep hygiene, exercise, and a nutritious diet can also help stop snoring. 

Conclusion

While snoring surgery has helped some sleepers find relief, it’s often a last-resort option that doesn’t have the best long-term benefits. Before undergoing invasive treatments, discuss non-surgical solutions to address your snoring with your healthcare provider.

At MedCline, we’re invested in helping you find a non-invasive solution for snoring. Our pillows are backed by science and offer a safe treatment option to  address poor sleeping patterns and snoring. Made with adjustable memory foam stuffing, our medically proven sleep wedges provide full-body support to align your spine and elevate your upper body, keeping your airways open. Unlike other snoring pillows, our sleep solutions include a patented arm pocket that keeps you comfortably on your side while alleviating any pressure on your shoulders.

For more information about how our snoring solutions can help with childhood snoring, head to our  MedCline FAQs or reach out to our team of  Sleep Specialists today! 

Resources 

"Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)." Standford Medicine, stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-treatments/p/palate-surgery/types/uppp.html.

 

​​Viswanatha, B., and Arlen D. Meyers. "Uvulopalatoplasty." Medscape, 2 Sept. 2023, emedicine.medscape.com/article/2051863-overview.

 

"Sleep Apnea Surgery, Snoring Surgery: Types."Duke Health, 3 Nov. 2023,www.dukehealth.org/treatments/sleep-disorders/sleep-apnea-surgery-types.

 

Levin, B C, and G D Becker. “Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty for Snoring: Long-term results.”The Laryngoscope, 1994; 104(9).https://doi.org/10.1288/00005537-199409000-00017.

Berger G, Finkelstein Y, Stein G, Ophir D. “Laser-Assisted Uvulopalatoplasty for Snoring: Medium- to Long-term Subjective and Objective Analysis.” Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2001;127(4):412–417.https://doi.org/10.1001/archotol.127.4.412

 

De Kermadec, H. et. al. “Radiofrequency of the Soft Palate for Sleep-Disordered Breathing: A 6-Year Follow-Up Study.European Annals of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Diseases, 2014,131(1), 27-31.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anorl.2013.04.005

 

Robin, I. G. “Snoring.”Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1948, 41(3), 151-153.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2184387/

Tzifa, K T et al. “The Relation Between Tonsillectomy and Snoring.”Clinical Otolaryngology and Allied Sciences, 1998, 23(2), 148-51.https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2273.1998.00113.x.