While we are asleep, turbulent airflow can
cause the tissues of the nose and throat to vibrate and give
rise to snoring. Essentially, snoring is a sound resulting from
turbulent airflow that causes tissues to vibrate during sleep
What causes snoring?
While we are breathing, air flows in and out in a steady
stream from our nose or mouth to our lungs. There are relatively
few sounds when we are sitting and breathing quietly. When we
exercise, the air moves more quickly and produces some sounds as
we breathe. This happens because air is moving in and out of the
nose and mouth more quickly and this results in more turbulence
to the airflow and some vibration of the tissues in the nose and
When we are asleep, the area at the back of the throat
sometimes narrows. The same amount of air passing through this
smaller opening can cause the tissues surrounding the opening to
vibrate, which in turn can cause the sounds of snoring.
Different people who snore have different reasons for the
narrowing. The narrowing can be in the nose, mouth, or throat.
People who snore often have too much throat and nasal tissue, or
“floppy” tissue that is more prone to vibrate. The position of
the tongue can also get in the way of smooth breathing.
Evaluating how and when you snore will help you pinpoint whether
the cause of your snoring is within your control or not. Enlist
your sleep partner or keep a sleep diary to help you determine
the possible cause of your snoring.
Causes out of our control:
- Heredity - A narrow throat, a cleft
palate, enlarged adenoids and other physical attributes which
contribute to snoring can be hereditary.
- Being middle-aged or beyond - As you age,
your throat becomes narrower, and the muscle tone in your
- Being male - Men have narrower air
passages than women and are more likely to snore.
- Allergies, asthma, a cold, or sinus infections
- Blocked airways make inhalation difficult and create a
vacuum in the throat, leading to snoring.
Causes within our control:
- Being overweight or out of shape - Fatty
tissue and poor muscle tone contribute to snoring.
- A history of smoking – Smoking (or
exposure to second-hand smoke) relaxes muscles and creates
- Alcohol or medications - Alcohol and
medications increase muscle relaxation leading to more
- Sleeping posture - Sleeping flat on your
back allows the flesh of your throat to relax and block the
- Lose weight
– Losing weight is often a very effective
cure for mild to moderate snoring. Even a
little bit of weight loss can reduce fatty
tissue in the back of the throat and
- Sleep on
your side – If you sleep on your
back and snore mildly, sleeping on your side
might cure your snoring altogether.
- Elevate your
head – Try elevating the head of
your bed four inches, which may make
breathing easier and encourage your tongue
and jaw to move forward. Sleep without a
pillow (or with a specially designed pillow)
to make sure your neck muscles are not
certain foods, alcohol and medications
before bed - Alcohol and certain
medications increase relaxation of throat
and tongue muscles, which makes snoring more
likely. Sleeping pills or tranquilizers may
help you sleep, but they will also relax
your muscles and increase the chance of
snoring. High-fat milk products or soy milk
products cause mucus to build up in the
throat which can lead to snoring as well.
- Clear your
nasal passages - Having a stuffy
nose makes inhalation difficult and creates
a vacuum in your throat, which in turn leads
to snoring. Nasal decongestants or nasal
strips may help you breathe more easily
while sleeping. Antihistamines can help with
allergies, but will relax throat muscles and