About 90 million Americans suffer from snoring activity during sleep (source: sleepapnea.org). Snoring may be common, but it’s not normal.
This seemingly harmless breathing is a sign of an underlying condition. While usually not dangerous, it’s something that you should at least evaluate and work to minimize.
There could be one of 11 potential causes of your nocturnal noise making in the nose & throat, and if your spouse is ready to kick you out of the bedroom and onto the sofa, it’s worth figuring out which of these causes is responsible for your snoring.
Many frustrated partners find that a gentle nudge or a hint to roll over is often enough to stop a snorer in their tracks. But what does it mean when a loud snorer isn’t silenced by merely changing positions?
We’ll explore that topic and more in this article about why people snore, including whether it’s more common in male adults than female as well as potential treatments for breathing better.
Looking for a new mattress? Click here to read about our top beds for those that snore.
Why Are Humans Snoring?
The root cause of snoring is when the air you’re breathing doesn’t flow smoothly through your nose and throat when you’re sleeping. Instead, it bumps into the surrounding tissues, which causes a vibration. The resulting vibration makes the snoring sound as you breathe. Your tongue’s position may also play a part.
When people have allergies, it can become more pronounced. This is because the airways in the nose and throat get irritated and congested, which could result in snoring.
By choosing a hypoallergenic bed, you can potentially alleviate and reduce the effects of allergies (read our guide of top picks for allergies).
Dry Air and Climates
Allergies aren’t the only irritants that lead to congestion. When the air is excessively dry, dusty, or polluted, the body’s mucous membranes do double duty to filter out particles and pollutants.
Heavier people tend to have extra tissue and fatty deposits around the neck and throat area. Due to the effects of gravity, it can collapse the muscles, restrict the airway, and promote snoring.
The dry air you create in your lungs by smoking combined with the chemicals and irritants you put in your lungs lead to inflammation, which also reduces the size of the air passageways in your nose & throat.
Drinking does more than just help you relax. It also relaxes the muscles in the around your throat. When those muscles relax instead of remaining taut and in place, you’re more likely to snore.
Not all sleep medicine prescriptions from doctors are created equal, but some also contribute to the relaxation of throat muscles. Also, if you’re taking sleeping pills, you’re even more likely to snore and not rouse yourself awake from the noise.
As if you weren’t sad enough about getting older, now you have to worry about snoring, too! As we age, our skin and tissues lose elasticity and moisture. The drier tissue is more susceptible to the vibrations that cause noise in our throat & nose.
Physiology of the Upper Airway
Some people are built to snore! A larger tongue, pronounced tonsils, or a long uvula can all cause a constricted airway. Even a deviated septum or soft chin could contribute to a nightly snore fest.
If you sleep on your back (or learn how here), you’re more likely to snore. Usually, a sharp nudge with an elbow is enough to encourage a snorer to roll to their side, which is often enough to stop the sounds. The reason back sleeping causes snoring is because this position causes the throat muscles to relax, and as you know, that’s what creates the ideal environment for this sound in first place.
Want to learn more about sleeping positions? Here's our full guide – find our the best one!
If you’ve been burning the candle at both ends and finally get a chance to sleep, you’re probably going to sleep much more deeply than normal. When this happens, the body isn’t as easily roused in the event that there’s a disturbance, even when it’s coming from within.
Adults who sleep with a partner can probably attest to witnessing snoring when their bedmate was particularly exhausted.
Learn more about sleep deprivation and the link to mental illness here.
Nasal Passage and Sinus Problems
If you have a cold or stuffy nose & throat, the act of breathing itself can be a challenge. The effect is almost like a vacuum, and so people with nasal and sinus problems are frequent snorers.
People with obstructive sleep disorders are also notorious for being snorers. Interestingly enough, people who have sleep apnea almost always snore. But, people who snore don’t always have obstructive sleep apnea. While the two conditions are linked, as you can see, there are many reasons people snore other than just sleep apnea.
Types of Snoring and What It Means
Yes, there actually types of snores, and the way you snore can tell a lot about what’s causing your snoring. The good news is that this knowledge can help lead to a cure!
If you snore when your mouth is fully closed, then the breathing issue isn’t in your nose or throat. Instead, your tongue is the culprit. Your tongue is blocking the passageway. One solution we recommend is to get a tongue retaining mouthpiece. It works to pull your tongue forward and prevent it from falling back toward your throat.
If you snore with your mouth open, then the issue is likely to be with the muscle tone in your throat not allowing oxygen to flow freely without obstruction. A mandibular advancement device could be the best solution. These look like a mouth guard that people wear for sports, but it has hinges that push your jaw forward, which helps engage the throat muscles, preventing the infamous audio vibrations.
Snoring when Sleeping on Your Back
Most of us have fallen prey to a few snorts here and there, especially when we’re on our backs. If switching positions and moving to the side helps, then this case of snoring may not likely be life-threatening. The frequency of these episodes can likely be reduced by engaging in better sleep habits and making some healthier lifestyle choices.
Snoring in All Sleep Positions
If you tend to snore no matter what position you sleep in, then your case is more severe. It may require a more involved treatment plan, including surgery. To make sure you don’t have an underlying breathing medical condition, we recommend a visit with your doctor to rule out anything serious.
Snoring Treatment Options
While sometimes it is due to factors we can’t control like genetics and gender, many times the situation can be improved with a few lifestyle changes. If your snoring is influenced by environmental conditions like dry air, for example, try using a humidifier in the bedroom to help keep passageways open in your throat & nose.
Limited alcohol consumption and smoking also helps, and it is recommended to avoid the use of antihistamines, sleeping pills, and other sedatives before bed.
If you’re carrying a bit of extra weight, shaving a few pounds off the number on the scale could also help. Plus, if you’re a nighttime eater, skip the snacking and heavy meals within about three hours of going to sleep. A big meal right before bed is a recipe for heartburn and acid reflux, both of which irritate the lining of the throat.
A final tip in the lifestyle department is to work on getting a good night of sleep since sleep deprivation is one of the causes of snores.
There are a variety of medical options available, including surgery, and thankfully, they’re not known to be complicated or have major risk factors. Your doctor can give you more information, but we’ll provide an outline of your options here. Depending on the cause of your snoring, you may elect to try one of the following:
- Somnoplasty – This procedure removes excess tissue to help open up the air’s passageways and ease any obstruction. It uses radiofrequency heat, and patients are awake, though numbed, so they don’t feel anything. The entire procedure takes only 30 minutes.
- Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) – The dangling thing in the back of your throat is your uvula. When it’s longer than average, it vibrates when you breathe, and as you know, those vibrations lead to snoring. This procedure shortens the uvula, while also making incisions on either side of the palate. When the cuts heal, the surrounding tissue becomes stronger, making the vibrations all but disappear.
- Palatal implants – Just like large building structures have pillars to support them, the soft palate, also known as the back of the roof of the mouth, sometimes needs a little bit of structural security, too. Palatal implants prop up the soft palate, preventing it from relaxing and forming vibratory sounds.
- Surgical procedures – In cases where the tissue abnormality is severe, actual surgery may be required to open up the airway enough to prevent snoring. One routine procedure is a tonsillectomy, in which the tonsils are removed. Others include a uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) or thermal ablation palatoplasty (TAP).
If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor may suggest that you get a CPAP machine to keep air continuously entering your passage. CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. The device provides ventilation through a motorized base, and the user must wear a mask with a hose that forces air pressure into the airways.
Some people resist the bulk and inconvenience of CPAP machines and opt for oral appliances instead. Two that are helpful for snoring are:
- Mandibular advancement device – It looks like a mouth guard but has hinges that push the jaw forward, forcing the airways to stay open in throat while simultaneously strengthening the surrounding muscles.
- Tongue retaining mouthpiece – You place your tongue inside of this device, and it keeps your tongue up and out of your mouth. This solution is ideal for closed-mouth snorers who can trace the cause of their snoring back to a tongue issue.
Identify Underlying Medical Illness
Before investing in an expensive device or undergoing a medical procedure from your doctor, it’s wise to find out if there’s any underlying medical condition causing you to snore. Chronic nightly snoring could be a sign of sleep apnea, a sleep disorder characterized by dozens to hundreds of episodes each night where the patient stops breathing.
The brain automatically wakes up the subject, but this wreaks havoc on someone’s sleep schedule, which could also exacerbate the situation, creating a vicious cycle of sleeplessness, drowsiness, and excessive snores.
Benefits of Treating It
Lower Blood Pressure
While the cause is not entirely known, researchers have uncovered that high blood pressure and snoring may be closely linked. Therefore, if you are able to stop snoring, you could also theoretically lower your blood pressure.
Relieves Adverse Side Effects
Snoring is a sleep disruptor, so if you solve the problem, you get rid of other inconveniences and maladies as well. For example, you might find that you wake up better rested with fewer headaches. You’re likely to have more energy throughout the day, that dry, sore throat will go away, and your spouse will probably love you more now that you’re not keeping them awake.
Spares Your Bed Partner
Snoring is a leading cause of divorce. It’s a scary but true fact. Not only does your partner lie awake at night but they also begin to resent you. Plus, now they’re sleep deprived, so they’re not thinking clearly. And finally, it’s just not sexy.
Couples that have one person who snores in the relationship may end up in separate bedrooms, too. While the benefit of that arrangement is extra closet space, the danger is the risk of growing apart and losing out on daily intimacy with the person you love.
Snoring disrupts our sleep. It often jars us out of sleep, or at the very least, causes our partner to wake us up. If, instead, you could sleep through the night, think about how much more energy you might have!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can it be reduced naturally using home remedies?
Nasal passage strips are a popular and natural way to combat snoring. They work by lifting up the underlying muscles of your nose, allowing more oxygen to flow. Using natural decongestants could also help if you tend to snore due to congestion.
Sleeping in a propped-up position, either with a wedge pillow or an adjustable bed, is another viable option to reduce it at home without intervention.
Is snoring common in females?
While anyone can snore, it’s more often observed in males than females. This is because men have narrower air passages, which make them more easily blocked or otherwise restricted.
What does loud snoring indicate?
Loud snoring, as opposed to dainty snorts, is often an indication of either sleep apnea or an air passage that is partially obstructed from either a physical characteristic or a temporary allergy or illness. While some people are naturally louder snorers than others, you may need to schedule an appointment with your physician if you find that it is also persistent and daily.
If you’ve also noticed that you’re drowsy during the day and you can also recall instances of waking up in the middle of the night gasping for air, you could very well be suffering from sleep apnea.
While an occasional snore here and there is not likely anything to be concerned about, chronic snoring can be harmful to your health and your relationship. During our research, we came across countless stories of couples who admitted that it put strain and stress on their existence as a couple.
If you’re the one in the partnership that is trying in vain to get the other partner to stop snoring, we suggest recording them on your smartphone. They may not realize how loud and disruptive this involuntary behavior is. Once they witness it for themselves, we think they’ll be more apt to make improvements.