What is Snoring?

Snoring is a rough sound a person makes while sleeping when their airway becomes blocked and vibrates the soft tissues in the oral cavity. Snoring is not usually serious and can often be remedied if a person doesn’t sleep flat on their back.

Nasal congestion and respiratory issues can easily cause snoring, since a person is apt to breathe through their mouth. Alcohol and some medications, like sedatives, can also have an effect and cause a person’s muscles to relax too much, thus causing snoring.

While occasional snoring is all right, it can be indicative of an underlying sleep problem. For example, those who are overweight or obese may develop sleep apnea and snore a lot since fat deposits can obstruct their airway. Snoring can also be a problem when it causes insufficient sleep.

Over time, a person with poor sleep habits is more likely to develop chronic conditions, such as depression or cardiovascular disease. Snoring can also be a problem for others, not only because it can keep a partner awake from the noise, but because snorers are more prone to accidents, such as those caused by drowsy driving.

What are the Symptoms of Snoring?

Snoring is a symptom in itself, but if a person does not live with family or roommates, he or she may not know about it unless it also presents itself with other symptoms. When snoring signals a sleep disorder, a person will also usually have daytime drowsiness, insomnia, cognitive issues, irritability, depression, and the like.

Snoring Causes

There are a number of causes of snoring, but the primary reason why it occurs is because of issues with our airways. When we sleep, the muscles in the tongue, throat and soft palate (roof of the mouth) relax. If they relax enough to block the airway, they begin to vibrate with each breath we take, which results in the snoring sound. The more narrow an airway is, the more forceful the flow of air becomes and the more vibration occurs.

Some people’s anatomies simply make them more susceptible to snoring. For example, someone may have a particularly long uvula which obstructs airflow. Those with a thick, soft and low soft palate are also more likely to snore. Being overweight can also cause snoring because it can cause extra tissue at the back of the throat which narrows the airway.

Issues with the nose and sinuses can also cause snoring because this narrows the airway. Temporary or chronic nasal congestion could be to blame, or a deviated septum. In other cases, the airways could be blocked by obstructive sleep apnea which partially or totally blocks the airways and prevents proper breathing.

How is Snoring Treated?

Sometimes, lifestyle changes can completely eliminate snoring. For instance, smoking can irritate the membranes in the throat and nose, thus causing inflamed and blocked airways. By eliminating a smoking habit or cutting back, one can alleviate snoring. Losing some excess weight or changing one’s sleep position can also help.

If a person has tonsils or adenoids that are too big and obstructing airways, tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy can be considered. If a person finds out that their snoring is caused by a sleep condition, like sleep apnea, he or she may want to invest in an oral appliance or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device.

Snoring Prevention

Sleep deprivation and alcohol are both known to contribute to the relaxation of the tissues in the mouth and airway. By avoiding alcohol and improving your sleep hygiene in order to get better quality sleep, you may be able to prevent snoring.

Losing weight may help to prevent snoring. Exercise is also beneficial as it can help to strengthen the muscles in the neck to reduce narrowing of the airways during sleep.

Anti-snoring devices may also help to prevent snoring. For those who tend to snore through their nose due to congestion, nasal strips may help to open the airways. If the snoring seems to occur from the mouth, a chin strap or vestibular shield could help to encourage breathing through the nose during sleep to prevent snoring.

Last Reviewed:
October 10, 2016
Last Updated:
November 09, 2017