What causes snoring? – Symptoms, Treatment, Risks & Prevention

Last Updated on August 9, 2021

Almost everyone snores at some point in their lives. Habitual snoring is occurring for around 50% of the adult human population. However, snoring can be caused by a sleep disorder called sleep apnea, which can cause other health problems.

It is possible that snoring is the result of a person’s weight and body composition, as well as behaviours such as drinking alcohol or sleeping in a certain position. Understanding the different causes of snoring can help you decide if your snoring is something you should be concerned about and if you should take specific measures to stop it. 

In today’s article, we’ll be discussing what causes snoring, how can you stop it and if it’s time for you to see a professional. 

What causes snoring?

What causes snoring?

Snoring happens when air can’t flow freely through the airway during sleep. When the airway is narrowed, breathing causes the tissues of the upper airway to vibrate and make a loud snore. There are a number of possible reasons that a person may snore. Here are the most common causes for snoring:

Sleep Apnea

Firstly, we would like to start by saying that not everyone who snores has obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), but most individuals with OSA snore. Sleep apnea is a common sleep-related breathing disorder that often goes undiscovered. It is marked by pauses in breathing during sleep due to the collapse of the airway. People with sleep apnea snore loudly, and then they have periods of quiet as their breathing stops. That’s why the sound of gasping or snorting can be heard when they return to breathing.

Depression, high blood pressure, and heart disease are some of the adverse health outcomes associated with this sleeping disorder. In addition, sleepiness can lead to accidents at work or while driving. The good news is that there is a treatment for sleep apnea that can resolve symptoms and reduce one’s risk for harmful health effects.

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices, lifestyle changes, dental devices, and surgery are some of the treatments that can be used to treat it. However, we strongly recommend you speak to a professional before making a decision. 

Sleeping position

Snoring happens more often when you are lying on your back due to the position of your spine. The tissues surrounding your airway are pulled downward by gravity, which makes the airway more narrow. Research on snorers has shown that patients who lay on their side have a lower incidence of snoring. Thus side sleepers are less likely to snore. 

Snoring and sleep apnea can be treated with a variety of different approaches. People who sleep on their backs are encouraged to avoid positional therapy. This includes sleep pillows, modified nightshirts, and positional alarms. According to data, using an anti-snore pillow that keeps the head to the side can decrease snoring. 

Weight loss reduces snoring

Body weight

Extra tissue in the neck can cause an airway to be smaller and more susceptible to collapse. This is why people who are overweight may be able to sleep better due to weight loss. For example, a study shows that men who lose at least three kilograms are less likely to snore. Another issue for heavier individuals can be their mattress. If a mattress isn’t providing them with the right support and comfort, it can also lead to snoring issues. 

Smoking cigarettes

Smoking contributes to snoring. It is not clear why people who smoke are more likely to snore, but researchers theorize that it may be due to upper airway inflammation and oedema in smokers. Smoking cessation can take time, but it has been shown that it improves snoring. There is a study that shows snoring rates remained elevated in people who quit recently but fell within four years. So, if you’re wondering why can’t I sleep at night, know that smoking may be one of the reasons.

Drinking alcohol

The muscles that support tissue around the airway relax when alcohol and other drugs or sedative medication are used. Chronic snorers who drink alcoholic beverages experience more severe snoring. That’s why if you want to reduce snoring, physicians recommend avoiding alcohol and sedatives during the night.

Some people may experience benefits even though this approach to snoring management has not been evaluated in a clinical trial. If you want to learn more on the subject, take a look at our guide regarding ‘What are the best drinks before bed?’

Older people snore more

Age

There are a number of sleep changes associated with the elderly. As we get older, the tongue and muscles around the airway may become weaker. That’s why trying myofunctional therapy, also called mouth and throat exercises is a method of reducing snoring caused by weak muscles. According to a review of studies, myofunctional treatment can reduce snoring intensity. Keep in mind that older individuals should always speak with a doctor before doing the therapy. 

Chronic nasal congestion

Snoring can be caused by a stuffy nose, which reduces the airflow through the airway and causes it to collapse during sleep. Allergies or infections are the most common cause of nose congestion, but there are other causes that include being in a dry air environment or having a deviated septum. Chronic nasal congestion can lead to snoring when these conditions persist over time.

A study of middle-aged adults found that those who said they experienced nasal congestion at night were three times more likely to snore than those who didn’t. If the cause of snoring is chronic congestion, then treatment may include using nasal steroids or nose sprays.

Sleep-related hypoventilation

Generally speaking, the size and shape of specific structures may be the cause of constriction in the airways and can lead to snoring. For example, when the wall between nostrils is bent or skewed to one side, people are likely to snore more. Snoring can be linked to growths in the nasal passages, a small jaw, and even an enlarged tongue. There are treatment approaches for snoring that include surgery and dental devices. Both methods aim to increase the flow of air in and out of the airway while you sleep.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough testosterone. It can lead to symptoms such as a puffy face, hoarse voice, slow speech, and slow heart rate if left unaddressed. It can also make snoring worse. A study found that all of the patients with the condition, snored. The treatment for hypothyroidism involves taking a medication which replaces the thyroid hormone deficiency.

How can you stop snoring?

How can I stop snoring? - Tips & Prevention

It’s essential to seek a doctor’s care in order to get the medical treatment you need to address the underlying condition. Simple home remedies can be used to treat cases of snoring. Here are five remedies that can be used to treat snoring:

Weight loss

Reducing the amount of tissue in the throat will help you sleep. You can lose weight by changing your diet to include more healthy foods and smaller portions. Also, it’s important to get regular exercise daily. If you need help, you may want to see an expert or a nutrition professional who can create a personal plan for you.

Sleep on your side

As we’ve mentioned above, sleeping on your back can cause the tongue to move to the back of the throat, which makes it hard for air to travel through your throat. If you sleep on your side, you can allow air to flow easily, and this might stop snoring or at least reduce it.

Sleep on your side to reduce snoring

Use nasal strips or a dilator

Stick-on nasal strips can be placed on the bridge of your nose in order to help increase the space in your nasal passage. This can make breathing easier and snoring less likely. You could also try a nasal dilator. That’s a stiffened adhesive strip which is applied on top of the nose across the nostrils, making it easier to breathe.

Treat chronic allergies

In some cases, allergies can reduce airflow through your nose, which means you are forced to breathe through your mouth. This increases your chances of snoring. If you have an allergy, talk to your doctor about what kind of medication may help you improve your condition. 

Correct structural issues in your nose

Some people have a deviated septum because of an injury they were born with. This is the wall that separates both sides of the nose, restricting airflow, which itself may cause mouth breathing and snoring while you sleep. Understand that this condition may need to be corrected with surgery, so it’s advised you speak with a professional on the matter. 

When should you speak with a doctor about snoring?

When should you speak with a doctor about snoring?

A potential health concern for someone who snores is that they might have sleep apnea. Therefore, it is advisable to speak with a doctor if you snore and have obstructive sleep apnea symptoms. They usually include:

  • Breath pausing during sleep, which is typically followed by choking, snorting, gasping sounds
  • Frequent waking up during the night and easy disturbance
  • Daytime sleepiness and drowsiness
  • Morning headaches and feeling tired

Snoring can go undetected by the snorer, so bed partners or housemates alert the affected individual about their snoring and other nighttime symptoms. You can also take a look at our article on the ‘Best Mattresses for Couples.’ If your snoring affects your bed partner’s sleep and you would like to explore treatment options, it could be beneficial to talk with a doctor. 

Bottom line

Snoring can affect your sleep and that of your partner. We understand that it can be annoying, but it may indicate a serious health condition. You can get your sleep under control if you see your doctor and try some of the treatments we’ve mentioned above.

Now it’s our turn to hear from you if any questions regarding the subject were left unanswered. If you want to share some information, we would gladly hear about it in the comments below.

Isabelle Harris
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