What causes snoring?

Facts about snoring:

Snoring is both a sleep and a breathing disorder.  Any narrowing of the upper air passages can cause snoring.  Large tonsils or adenoids, a lower soft palate, a too relaxed tongue, elongated uvula (that kidney shaped object that hangs in the back of the mouth) or fatty deposits in the throat can all be looked at as a cause of snoring. Snoring tends to get worse as people age because tissues in and around the airways start to sag. The mid-forties and up is when snoring really becomes more prevalent, according to the National Sleep Foundation. The noise we hear from someone snoring is produced by a vibration of the tissues in the throat. Throat muscle relaxation increases with sleep and the more relaxed the throat muscles are the greater the likelihood of throat tissue vibration and the sound of snoring.


Contributing factors:

Snoring increases significantly as people get older because the muscle tone in the throat muscles decreases with age. Being overweight is a common cause of snoring.  A person who gains weight has excess fat deposits in the neck, which narrows the airway.  Once men hit a shirt size of 17 they are candidates for weight-related snoring.  Tranquilizers, alcohol or extreme fatigue can aggravate snoring by deepening a person’s sleep, causing a greater than normal relaxation of the muscles and causing the tongue to drop back more. The Sleep Disorders Clinic recommends not drinking alcohol less than four hours before bedtime. Smoking can contribute to snoring by producing excess mucus and causing throat membranes to swell and restrict air passages. Sleeping on one’s back can cause the tongue to shift closer to the back wall of the throat, which narrows the airways.  Elevating the head can help up to 30 percent of snorers, according to Toronto’s Sleep, Nose and Sinus Clinic.

Dr. Derek Lipman’s book, ‘Snoring from A to ZZZZ: Proven Cures’ provides many other explanations for snoring:

  • Abnormal throat anatomy such as an elongated or thick uvula, enlarged tongue or tonsils and/or lowering of the soft palate.
  • Abnormal nasal anatomy such as deviated nasal septum and nasal polyps.
  • Reduced muscle tone in the tissues of the throat produced by aging, an under active thyroid, the use of alcoholic “night caps,” tranquilizers or sleeping pills.
  • Fatigue, overeating or overwork can  exaggerate the conditions leading to snoring, by resulting in over-relaxation of airway muscles and tissues.
  • Nasal obstruction brought on by seasonal or perennial allergies, the common cold, and occupational or chronic rhinitis.
  • Obesity causes or aggravates snoring as collections of fat may compress and narrow the throat.

According to Dr. Smolley, co-author of ‘The Snoring Cure’, serious cases of untreated snoring can also lead to, “morning headaches, restless legs during sleep, mood swings, choking sensations, impotence, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and even death”.


It is essential that you not take snoring lightly. Ignoring the problem cannot help in solving it…it may actually lead to sleep apnea. The best step you can take right now is to find the real cause of your snoring and obtain more detailed information on how to stop it before it starts to take a toll on your overall health.


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