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These are the Most Common Causes of Snoring

Snoring is an incredibly common problem that most of us know about and have had to deal with on at least one occasion. Still, most of us know very little about the causes of snoring

Chances are that if you are reading this page, you either snore yourself, or have a snoring partner which constantly keeps you awake. In fact, snoring is so commonplace that it is one of the most heard complaints that married couples make about their spouse. This is partly because snoring tends to increase with age, so many couples must routinely deal with sleeping next to a sawmill night after night. 

In general, any snoring disorder is caused by the narrowing of the air passages in the nose, throat, or mouth. When these passageways are restricted, the air being forced through them causes the tissue to vibrate which results in snoring. When people age, the muscles in these areas begin to lose tension and the air passages can become restricted much more easily, which is why people start to snore more and more loudly and frequently as they age. 

These passageways are also much more restricted when a person sleeps on their back, which is why many people report that they can lessen their partner’s snoring by gently (or not so gently) waking the person and getting them to roll over on their side. 

While all of this basically explains why people snore, the actual causes of snoring can be quite varied and depend on whether the snoring originates in the nose, mouth, or throat. Below are the general causes of snoring, although keep in mind that these are not the only reasons people snore. In some cases, snoring can be aggravated by certain medications or alcohol, which cause the muscles to relax and can lead to further restriction of the airways. 

People also snore much more as they begin to gain weight because again the passageways can be blocked more easily. This, combined with the restriction of comfortable sleeping poses, also affects pregnant women. Snoring during pregnancy is actually quite common. Finally, many people also snore due to complications from an illness or allergies

Why People Snore From Their Nose

causes of snoringGenerally speaking, the body wants to breathe through the nose whenever possible, as the nose filters, heats, and humidifies the air coming into the body. This is why it is most common for people to breathe through their nose while sleeping. 

In most adults, the causes of nasal snoring are usually related to swelling within the nasal cavities or a deviated septum (see picture on the left) often caused by a broken nose. Swelling in the nasal passages can be due to many different factors, but the most common cause is allergies. Snoring can also be related to swollen adenoids or tonsils, although this is much more common in children.


No matter what causes the nasal passages to swell and become obstructed or restricted, the result is that air must be forced through these constricted passages which cause the tissue to vibrate and results in snoring. In other cases, people with restricted nasal passages will start to breathe through their mouth which will actually cause the snoring to emanate from there even though the nasal cavities are the actual problem.


Why People Snore From Their Mouth

Normally, the causes of snoring emanating from the mouth are due to the relaxation of soft tissue at the back of the mouth which again restricts the amount of air that can flow through the passageway and results in increased vibration of this tissue and ultimately causes the person to snore. In order to fully understand why these soft tissues cause excessive snoring, you must first understand what the different soft tissues are and how they function.

  • The Soft Palate

The soft palate is a muscle that extends from the bone at the roof of the mouth into the back part of the mouth. It is attached to the bone at the front and the sides of the mouth, but is basically free hanging at the back of the mouth. The reason for this is that it must be able to move forwards and backwards to either open or close the connection between the nasal passages and the throat. 

During breathing, the palate moves forward to allow air to pass from the nasal passages into the throat. However, when swallowing food or water, the palate moves backward and blocks the passages to prevent substances from entering the nasal cavities and instead directing the food or liquid down the throat. 

  • The Uvula

causes of snoringThe uvula is the little ball that hangs down at the back of the mouth. It is an extension of the soft palate and helps it to perform its functions. It is also used in a few languages which use guttural sounds that emanate from the uvula and its vibration. 

  • The Tongue

Of course you know what the tongue is, and that it is very important in both speech and swallowing. Because of its functions, the tongue is not attached very tightly in the mouth, as it needs to be able to freely move around.

How These Soft Tissues Cause Snoring

You’ve learned that the soft tissues within the mouth all need to be free moving in order to perform their necessary functions. It is this ability to move that ultimately causes snoring that comes from the mouth. When you sleep, the muscles in the mouth relax, which can cause these tissues to relax and partially restrict the airway at the back of the throat. 

Any or all of the three can restrict the airflow and result in increased vibrations within the tissues themselves, which leads to snoring. In general, this happens much more when a person sleeps on their back as the tissues will relax and move backwards blocking the throat. This is why snoring is so much worse when a person sleeps on their back. 

Generally speaking, the causes of snoring are varied, but they all have to do with restricted airways which result in increased vibration of the tissues within the mouth, nose, or throat.

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