The Causes of Snoring and What You Can Do About Them
Whether you’re the culprit yourself, or you deal with a partner who snores at night, there’s probably not a person alive who hasn’t experienced snoring in one way or another.
It’s estimated that a whopping 37 million Americans snore. So, it’s clearly a common, albeit annoying (to those trying to get quality sleep!), condition that affects many.
You may have never stopped to give snoring a second thought and wondered what actually causes snoring, and what, if anything, can be done about it. You may also be wondering when it can change from annoying to an actual cause for concern.
What Is Snoring?
So, what’s happening when you snore and exactly what are you hearing?
In a nutshell, snoring occurs when air flow through your throat and nose is somehow blocked. As you sleep, the muscles in your body relax, including those in your throat. The sound of air passing over these relaxed muscles creates the sound of a snore; you’re actually hearing the vibration of these tissues as you breathe. The resulting noise can be slight and raspy or full fledged “fog horn” and certainly enough to wake you up.
Common as it may be to wake up to the sound of your own or others’ snores, snoring can definitely keep you from getting the quality sleep each night that you need, making it harder to get through the next day with energy and focus.
Current Research Around the Causes of Snoring
There are a number of causes to blame for snoring that may change with age, health and other conditions, such as your level of exhaustion or even if you’re under the influence of alcohol.
All of the following can be the culprit of your snoring:
- Being overly exhausted, which causes the throat to become extra relaxed.
- Your individual mouth structure — having extra tissue in the back of the mouth or an elongated uvula for example can constrict airflow.
- Nasal issues such as seasonal allergies causing blockage, a deviated septum or chronic nasal congestion can all contribute to your snoring.
- Weight also plays a role — being overweight can worsen snoring.
- Your sleep position matters. Sleeping on the back can worsen snoring.
- Hereditary obstructive sleep apnea can also be to blame, as can having a family history of snoring.
- Alcohol consumption before bed can further relax the muscles of the throat, causing worsened snoring.
What Is Normal and What Is Cause for Concern
Many people have a light or moderate snoring pattern at night, and it often isn’t cause for any concern. However, if snores become constant, severe or are interfering with your own or other’s sleep cycles, it may be time to look a little further into the issue.
Snoring often becomes worse with increasing age and also increasing weight, which might be one area to address (losing weight often lessens snoring, as the tissue in the throat lessens in size).
Snoring can also be indicative of a more serious sleep issue called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Certainly, not all who snore have obstructive sleep apnea, but if you have any or all of the following concerns, you should have a chat with your doctor to get tested:
- Pauses in breathing during sleep
- Being excessively tired during the day
- Waking up choking or gasping
- A sore throat upon waking
- Morning headaches
- Trouble focusing or staying alert during the day
- Chest pain during the night
- Snoring so loud it’s disruptive to others
A child may not exhibit the above symptoms, but if they’re having behavioral issues or a poor attention span that seems unexplained by anything else, obstructive sleep apnea could be the cause. Things like enlarged tonsils can cause OSA in children (along with worsened snoring in adults).
Products, Treatment Options and How to Stop Snoring
If you feel that your snoring is more than just harmless, mild snoring or it’s interfering with your quality of life, your sleep or the sleep of your spouse or family members, it’s a good idea to chat with your doctor about your treatment options.
Your doctor will likely perform a physical exam and ask you some questions to get to the root of your snoring issues. If needed, they might perform an X-Ray or scan to examine any structural issues that could be to blame. They may even conduct a sleep study to get a more in-depth picture of your health.
Some home remedies for snoring to try include making sure you maintain a healthy weight, sleeping on your side versus your back, avoiding alcohol or sedative consumption before bedtime, cutting out smoking, and treating any seasonal allergies or congestion you may be suffering from.