Man snoring in bed

Snoring Causes

Whether you snore loudly enough to bother the person laying next to you or with such volume you wake yourself up,  the snoring is clearly a problem. Even though it’s very common, snoring can be indicative of serious health concerns. About fifty percent of adults snore at least occasionally. Here is a look at what’s causing millions of people to snore. 

What Causes Snoring?

All of the airways in the upper part of the respiratory system narrow while you’re sleeping. Additionally, the virtually systemic relaxation occurs in the anatomy of the throat and mouth—specifically the soft palate, tongue, and throat muscles. Tissues relax, loosen, and crowd your airways as your sleep deepens. The same amount of air has to flow through what’s normally a larger tube, meaning the force of the airflow increases. This relaxed skin combined with a more powerful airflow makes the surrounding tissues vibrate, producing the sound of snoring.  

Anatomical Influences

The Mayo Clinic reports that the way the sinuses form in your mouth can influence whether or not you’re a snorer. The muscles at the back of the top of your mouth (the soft palate) can be problematic if they are thicker with a tendency sit lower in the mouth. They relax as you pass into deep sleep and block part of the airway. Additionally, if the uvula that hangs off of the back of the soft palate is too long, it can hinder your airflow during sleep and cause vibrations. For some people, the tongue slips backwards into the throat, narrowing the airways.

The nasal septum—which divides your nostrils—can become deviated because of nose injuries (later in life or at birth). A deviated septum is when the separating tissue between nostrils isn’t centered. Generally, the nostrils become alternately obstructed and tissues tend to swell. Between the swelling and the obstruction, a deviated septum makes it difficult to breath and increases the likelihood of snoring. It can also influence your choice of sleeping positions which can impact snoring as well. 

External Factors

Snoring is often caused by sleeping on your back. The relaxed tissues fall backwards into the throat which, again, narrows the airway. Other reasons for snoring include several factors that actually increase the relaxation of the muscles in the area. Drinking too much alcohol before going to sleep is a definite instigator; as a depressant, alcohol relaxes all the muscles in the body, including the oral muscles responsible for snoring. Sleep deprivation can contribute, also. If you haven’t been getting sufficient sleep, when you finally do sleep the throat muscles may relax enough to cause snoring. 

Underlying Conditions

Certain issues may also cause or increase the intensity of snoring issues. Obesity can be a major factor; even if you’re a healthy weight, any extra fat centered at the chin and throat may contribute. Chronic sinus issues, particularly an obstruction (stuffy nose) are a common issue; respiratory infections, like the common cold, may cause temporary snoring for the same reason. 

More serious conditions that can cause snoring include obstructive sleep apnea. In this disorder, the tissues in the throat relax so that air passages can be blocked off to such an extent that you not only snore, but stop breathing all together at times. The constant disruption of sleep means you don’t sleep as well, leading to insufficient sleep which, again, can also increase snoring. 

Last Updated: August 31, 2016