What Causes Snoring?

Snoring is the sound produced when air flows through relaxed tissues in your throat, causing these tissues to vibrate as you breathe. While occasional snoring is common, chronic snoring can be a problem for some people and may even indicate a severe health condition.

causes of snoring

If you or your partner snores, you’re likely familiar with the negative effects it can have on your sleep and overall well-being. Snoring can cause both partners to feel groggy and irritable in the morning, potentially leading to a strain on your relationship. Furthermore, snoring can impact not only your health and personal life but also your work performance. If you’re tired of snoring and looking for a solution, this article will help you understand the possible causes of snoring and how to prevent it, allowing you to enjoy better sleep quality and quantity.

Why Do People Snore?

Contrary to popular belief, snoring is not random and occurs due to specific processes within the body. Snoring can result from:

  • Relaxed muscle tissue obstructing the air passage,
  • Inflammation in the tongue, throat, or uvula causing tissue to block the airway,
  • Abnormal development or injury within the airway interfering with airflow.

Snoring mainly occurs when loose tissue partially blocks the airways. There are four types of snoring: throat, tongue, mouth, and nose.

Main Factors That Cause Snoring

Several underlying factors may trigger your snoring every night. Some habits or behaviors can cause relaxation in the throat muscles, leading to tissue vibration and snoring. Some common causes of snoring include:

  1. Sleep apnea: Snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea, which disrupts breathing during sleep.
  2. Sleep deprivation: Insufficient sleep may cause throat muscles to relax, blocking your air passage and leading to snoring.
  3. Physical deformities: Conditions such as a deviated septum, enlarged tonsils, a lower-than-usual soft palate, and other physical abnormalities can contribute to snoring by disrupting regular airflow.
  4. Weight gain: Obesity increases the amount of tissue around the throat and neck area, which can put pressure on your airways and cause partial blockage, increasing your likelihood of snoring. This is also why many women start snoring during pregnancy.
  5. Congestion: Dry air can cause colds or congestion, dry out throat tissues, and contribute to snoring.
  6. Allergies: Seasonal or year-round allergies can cause inflammation in your nose and throat, narrowing the airway and increasing the likelihood of snoring.
  7. Smoking: Like allergies, smoking irritates both throat and nose tissues, increasing your chances of snoring.
  8. Alcohol consumption: Alcohol has sedative effects that relax throat and neck muscles, increasing the risk of snoring.
  9. Sleeping pills and sedative medications: These drugs also relax throat muscles, making you more likely to snore.
  10. Sleep position: Sleeping on your back causes your tongue and soft palate to fall to the back of your throat, increasing your susceptibility to snoring.
  11. Age: As we age, our throat and tongue muscles weaken and lose tone. This narrows the airway, causing vibration as air struggles to move freely through it.

Risk Factors

Some risk factors may contribute to snoring, including:

  • Narrow airway: A long palate, large tonsils, or adenoids can narrow the airway and cause snoring.
  • Gender: Men are more likely to snore than women.
  • Obesity: Overweight or obese individuals are more prone to snoring due to excess weight, especially around the neck.
  • Alcohol consumption: Alcohol relaxes throat muscles, increasing the risk of snoring.
  • Nasal problems: Structural defects in the air passage, such as a deviated septum or chronic nasal congestion, can increase the risk of snoring.
  • Genetics: A family history of snoring increases your likelihood of snoring.


Persistent snoring can be a nuisance, especially for your bed partner, and may even cause a significant rift in your relationship. Moreover, snoring is sometimes associated with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which can lead to other complications, including:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • A higher risk of high blood pressure, heart conditions, and stroke
  • An increased risk of motor vehicle accidents due to lack of sleep
  • Frequent frustration or anger
  • An increased risk of behavior problems, such as aggression or learning difficulties, in children with OSA

How to Stop Snoring

Identifying the probable cause of your snoring can help you find a lasting solution. The severity of your snoring and its impact on your life will determine the most effective treatment. In some cases, simple changes such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol near bedtime, or adjusting your sleep position may help. However, if your snoring persists, you may need to explore more involved options. Some devices and procedures may improve or even cure your snoring. In some instances, one solution may work, or it may be more effective when combined with another treatment. Simple changes to try include:

  1. Losing weight if you’re obese.
  2. Exercising regularly: This helps with weight loss, muscle toning, and lung strengthening.
  3. Quitting smoking: Smoking can irritate your nose and throat, causing congestion.
  4. Avoiding alcohol, sedatives, antihistamines, and muscle relaxants: These substances can relax or close throat muscles, leading to snoring.
  5. Addressing congestion related to allergies: Over-the-counter medications may relieve congestion and snoring.
  6. Sleeping on your side: This prevents your tongue from collapsing into your airway. If you must sleep on your back, try propping yourself up with pillows. This may help keep your airways open, allowing air to flow freely and stopping snoring.
  7. Nasal strips: If you are congested, nasal strips can help keep your nose open. You might also want to try medications or nasal sprays for allergy or sinus problems recommended by your doctor.

If your snoring is more severe, your doctor might recommend the following treatments:

  • Surgical procedures to correct abnormalities in the anatomy of your mouth or nasal passage,
  • A custom-fit mouthpiece, which adjusts your tongue and lower jaw to help open your airways while you sleep,
  • A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. This device has a mask fitted over your nose, or both your nose and mouth, and gently blows air into your throat, helping to keep your airway open during sleep.

Final Thoughts

Snoring can be a burden, not just for you but for your loved ones as well. It can affect your health, personal life, and professional performance. Don’t underestimate the importance of addressing your snoring, whether it occurs every night or only occasionally. This article provides the information you need to regain peaceful, restful nights for you and those around you.