Snoring vs Stertor vs Stridor -

Snoring vs Stertor vs Stridor: Key Differences No ratings yet.

Published On January 29, 2021 | By SDA Editorial Staff | About Snoring

Snoring isn’t to be sneezed at. It has been known to end marriages and ruin friendships. But, more importantly, noisy breathing can be an indication of more serious health issues. When it comes to noisy breathing, medical professionals distinguish between stridor, stertor, and snoring.

Noisy breathing is of particular concern when it is evident in babies because it can be one of the first indicators of abnormalities. Melissa Kress, Chief of Pediatric Otolaryngology at McLane’s Children’s’ Hospital, has written an extremely detailed review of children’s breathing problems. The key points of which we have included in lay terms below. If you wish to read her report in its entirety, you can find it here.

Whether you’re concerned for yourself, your partner, or your child, it’s worth understanding a little more about what’s commonly referred to as “just snoring.” Let’s get into it.


1. What does it sound like?

Stridor is a high-pitched noise as in “strident.” The exact sound and pitch of stridor depend on the airflow dynamics – the size, composition, and position of the blockages causing it.

2. How is the sound produced?

Stridor sounds are produced by unstable, violent airflow from a blockage in the upper breathing and digestive tracts. Obstructions can be in the voice box or the trachea and bronchi of the lungs.

3. What are the possible causes of stridor?

85% of stridor cases are congenital and will be apparent in the first few months of life. Blockages can be caused by webs of tissue, clefts, fistulae, cysts, and other deformities. There are several diagnoses that a pediatrician or other medical professionals must make.

The remaining 15% relate to acquired blockages, which can be caused by foreign bodies, growths, or conditions like croup and epiglottitis.

4. What are the treatments for stridor?

Treatment of stridor depends on the diagnosis and severity. Some congenital cases self-correct as the child grows. Some obstructions and foreign bodies can be easily removed. More severe cases may require intubation, tracheostomy, or surgical airway reconstruction.


1. What does it sound like?

Stertor is a low snoring sound but is made while the person is awake.

2. How is the sound produced?

The sound is caused by obstructions above the voice box. Obstructions can be between the nose and pharynx (the cavity behind the nose and mouth, connecting them to the esophagus.) Or between the pharynx and the esophagus.

3. What are the possible causes of stertor?

Stertor can be congenital or acquired. Once again, there can be several diagnoses of congenital stertor that require a medical professional’s input. Stertor is also often exhibited in syndromes that involve craniofacial abnormalities such as Down Syndrome, Pierre Robin’s, and others.

Acquired causes of stertor include the development of polyps or abscesses, introducing foreign bodies, and conditions that cause swelling of the passages or organs.

4. What are the treatments for stertor?

Treatment of stertor will depend on the cause. Blockages can sometimes be easily removed. Acquired stertor as a result of swelling can often be treated by antihistamines or steroids. In more severe cases, surgical intervention is required.


1. What does it sound like?

Snoring is a low pitched rumble or roaring sound produced when sleeping.

2. How is the sound produced?

Snoring is caused by unstable airflow through the nose and pharynx and the part of the pharynx that lies between the soft palate and the hyoid bone.

3. What are the possible causes of snoring?

In children, snoring can be caused by deformities of the palate or enlargement of the adenoids or tonsils.

In adults, snoring can likewise be caused by the anatomy of breathing organs. But when it develops later in life, it is more likely due to excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, or allergies and illness (cold or flu.)

However, if you wake up tired, your snoring could be a sign of a severe sleep condition called sleep apnea. In sleep apnea, breathing stops and starts continuously. It is caused either by the throat muscles relaxing (obstructive sleep apnea) or by the brain failing to communicate with the muscles that cause breathing (central sleep apnea.) In some instances, people can suffer from both.

Obstructive sleep apnea can be caused by:

  • Medical conditions like asthma, type 2 diabetes, hormonal abnormalities, high blood pressure, and others
  • Obesity
  • The anatomy of your airways (thicker neck with narrow airways or enlarged tonsils and adenoids)
  • Age (apnea is more prevalent in older people)
  • Gender (apnea is more prevalent in men)
  • Genetics (apnea is more prevalent in certain families)
  • Use of substances that relax muscles (like cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs)

Central sleep apnea can be caused by:

  • Age (central apnea is also more prevalent in older people)
  • Gender (central apnea is also more prevalent in men)
  • Having had a stroke
  • Heart conditions
  • Using opioid pain medications

4. What are the treatments for snoring?

Where snoring is the result of physical obstructions, it may be possible to correct these surgically. Consult your physician if the following non-invasive techniques don’t produce results:

  • Lose weight
  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs
  • Sleep on your side
  • Raise the head of your bed
  • Use stick-on nasal strips or a nasal dilator to increase nasal passage space
  • Treat allergies with antihistamines or other medications or natural remedies

Treatments that involve consulting a medical professional include:

  • Oral devices that keep your airways clear
  • Palatal implants that stiffen your soft palate
  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) or laser-assisted UPPP surgery, which tightens throat tissue
  • A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine with a pressurized air mask
  • Somnoplasty, which uses radiofrequency tissue ablation to reduce your soft palate tissue

In Summary

Snoring, by any of its names, can be a serious health concern. It’s always a good idea to consult a medical professional when issues arise with breathing or if your snoring impacts your lifestyle. Even if your snoring doesn’t bother you, it could be an issue for your partner. Sleep deprivation can have dire consequences in terms of one’s ability to concentrate and perform optimally.

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