What causes snoring?

Snoring is caused by a narrowing of the upper airway during sleep due to large tonsils, a soft palate, a long uvula or excessive flabby tissue at the throat. All of these areas relax during sleep.

In other cases, nasal congestion from allergies or deformities of the cartilage between the two sides of the nose can contribute to narrowing of the airway.

However, the most common cause of narrowing of the upper airway is a tongue muscle that becomes too relaxed during sleep. When relaxed, it gets sucked back into the throat with each breath taken.

Because snoring occurs when air travels faster through a narrow tube than through a broad one, this rapidly moving air causes the relaxed soft tissues of the throat to vibrate. It is this vibration that creates the sound of snoring.

By keeping the airway open, air travels more slowly,  reducing throat vibrations and diminishing or eliminating snoring. Holding the tongue forward is one of the most effective ways of keeping the airway open during sleep

Common causes of problem snoring

  • Supine body position (lying face up)
  • Large tonsils, soft palate or long uvula
  • A tongue muscle that becomes too relaxed during sleep
  • Being overweight: A recent study showed that a 10 percent weight gain may lead to a six-fold increase in the likelihood of developing problem snoring
  • Nasal congestion from colds, allergies or deformities of cartilage in the nose
  • Smoking, alcohol or medication (which cause drowsiness)
  • Hypothyroidism: Due to lack of thyroid hormone, sufferers tend to have a larger tongue, as well as increased fat deposition in the tissues of the upper airway
  • Menopause: Postmenopausal women were shown to have more than twice the risk of problem snoring