Almost a third of all women and half of all men snore regularly. It’s the cause of many arguments for some couples, and it can lead to other health concerns. Because snoring is such a common problem, it’s important to understand the causes and solutions.
Snoring happens when the tissues in the back of your mouth or throat collapse and partially cover your airway. As you inhale, the air rushes past these tissues and causes them to vibrate against each other, which creates the snoring sound. This can happen for a variety of reasons, and figuring out exactly why you snore will help you fix the problem. Here are the most common causes of snoring:
The structure of your mouth and throat can make you more susceptible to snoring. Some people are simply born with a larger uvula, tongue, or tonsils. If any of these enlarged tissues collapse, it’s much more likely that they’ll block the airway and cause snoring.
A loss of muscle tone in the throat may also be responsible. The muscles in your throat should support the tissues and keep your airway open, but weak muscles will allow the tissues to collapse and vibrate. Loss of muscle tone is especially common with older adults, which is one reason why snoring becomes more common with age.
Your mouth anatomy may be the only cause of your snoring, or other risk factors may contribute as well. Many people can identify more than one reason they snore. Fortunately, even if your snoring is only caused by the natural structure of your mouth, the problem is still controllable. Mouthpieces like mandibular advancement devices and tongue stabilizing devices can hold open your airway and prevent snoring.
Blocked Nasal Passages
Although snoring happens in your mouth and throat, your nasal passages may also be involved. If your nasal passages are narrow or blocked, it’s difficult to get enough oxygen while breathing through your nose. When you’re awake, you may be able to fight through it and keep breathing nasally, but your body will switch to the easier option when you fall asleep.
Almost all snorers breathe through their mouths, and people are much more likely to experience breathing issues during sleep when their noses are blocked. When you breathe through your mouth, the air moves directly past the tissues in your mouth and throat and may cause them to vibrate.
If you have allergies or the common cold, you may snore because you breathe through your mouth while you sleep. Structural problems in your nose like a deviated septum or narrow nasal passages could also make you mouth breathe.
Sleeping habits can have a huge effect on snoring, especially in people who are predisposed to snoring because of their anatomy. Sleeping on your back can cause you to snore because it puts extra pressure on your throat and increases the chances that the tissues will collapse over your airway. Some people find that sleeping on their side instead solves their snoring problem completely.
Sleep deprivation also sometimes causes snoring. When you finally go to bed after being sleep deprived, your muscles may relax excessively because your body is so tired. As your muscles relax, the tissues in your mouth and throat may collapse over your airway. Drinking alcohol before going to sleep has the same effect.
Overweight or Obesity
Being overweight or obese can cause or worsen snoring. The excess weight on the neck can narrow the airway and cause the tissues to collapse and vibrate. If you sleep on your back, overweight or obesity can be particularly harmful because gravity will pull the extra weight down and put pressure on your throat.
Obesity is also linked to sleep apnea. Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, but almost everyone with sleep apnea snores. Sleep apnea occurs when your airway becomes completely blocked and you stop breathing while you sleep. This is a serious sleep disorder that can take a big toll on your health if it goes untreated. Luckily, like with snoring, there are a variety of treatments available that can fix your breathing and help you get a good night of sleep.