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Drinking and Snoring: Not a Coincidence

Many people enjoy unwinding after a long day of work with a drink or two (or three), but this can have a very negative effect on your overall sleep as drinking and snoring go hand in hand. This is true even for those who do not normally consider themselves to be a snorer. In order to understand the relationship between alcohol and snoring, you must first understand the effect that alcohol has on the body.

When we drink alcohol, whether it is beer, wine, or hard liquor or spirits, intoxication normally begins to occur within ten to twenty minutes, and it can take up to 14 hours after the liver has removed the alcohol from your blood stream for your brain and muscle functions to return to normal. 

When you drink, the alcohol passes through the digestive system into the blood and eventually reaches the brain, where it acts as a relaxant. This is partly because alcohol resembles a substance known as GABA that is naturally occurring in the brain. 

GABA works by soothing and eliminating anxiety, and the brain confuses alcohol with GABA, which only serves to enhance the calming effect that GABA has on the mind and body, and this effect increases as you consume more alcohol. 

This calming effect relaxes all of the muscles in the body, including those in the mouth and the back of the throat, and it is these muscles that are responsible for most of the noises associated with snoring. 

Why Do We Snore?

drinking snoringAs stated above, the main cause of snoring is when the muscles in the mouth and the back of throat relax during sleep, which can cause blockages of the air passage in the throat. This means that a person who snores has to breathe harder to force air through these partially blocked airways, which causes the soft palate tissue and uvula to vibrate resulting in snoring. 

While this is not the only cause of snoring, it is the main one. This is also the reason why the majority of people only snore when sleeping on their back, because the relaxed muscle tissue, including the tongue, can fall backwards and block the throat. 

When we breathe, our breathing muscles must force the air through the airway in the throat, due to a process called inspiratory resistance. When we are awake, the inspiratory resistance is lower, and rises slightly as we sleep, mainly due to the effect of gravity and the weight of your chest. 

This means that we need to take longer, deeper breaths when sleeping to force the air through our lungs. For most normal people, the level of inspiratory resistance nearly doubles while sleeping. However, for snorers, inspiratory resistance goes up by more than four times that of the level during the day. 

This means that they have to pull harder to get a full breath, which results in vibrations of the soft tissue in the mouth and thus snoring. The more relaxed the muscles and tissues of your mouth are, the more they can block your airway and also the more they will vibrate, thus the louder you will snore.

The Link Between Drinking And Snoring

So now that you are aware of why we snore and the effects alcohol has on the body, you can probably start to see how alcohol and snoring are closely related. The more you drink, the more the muscles relax which causes a further blockage of the airway at the back of the throat.


Studies have shown that after drinking even a minimal amount of alcohol, the relaxation affect has the effect of further raising the level of inspiratory resistance by as much as 4 times. This means that the average person is just as likely to snore after drinking alcohol as a habitual snorer. 


While a habitual snorer can have as much as 8 times more inspiratory resistance while sleeping after drinking alcohol, which can further exacerbate snoring and even cause mild sleep apnea

drinking snoringThis is why drinking snoring is such a serious problem, and why doctors and sleep specialists recommend avoiding alcohol for at least a few hours before going to bed, especially if you already suffer from snoring problems.

There are other links between alcohol and snoring as well. For instance, a fairly high percentage of people are actually allergic to a chemical compound found in many red wines known as tyrosine. Tyrosine is also found in fermented cheese, so be especially careful in combining them.

An allergic reaction to tyrosine is normally quite mild and most people will not even notice it, but it nonetheless can still have an inflammatory effect which can further increase snoring and degrade your quality of sleep. 

What Can You Do to Eliminate the Link between Drinking and Snoring?

So you know the effect of alcohol and snoring and want to know what you can do to stop it? Well, realistically the only surefire way to reduce this connection between drinking and snoring is to completely abstain from drinking before going to bed. However, many people are unwilling or unable to do so. 

drinking snoringIf you are one of these people, then there are a few things you can still do to reduce the effect of alcohol and snoring. One of the first things you can do is to eat more while you are drinking, which will reduce the amount of alcohol that is absorbed by your body and thus reduce its effects. 

Another possibility is to drink beverages with lower alcohol content, which means completely avoiding spirits of hard liquor. If you drink wine and still snore loudly, then maybe it is time to change to drinking beer. While none of these suggestions will completely eliminate snoring problems associated with alcohol, they should at least allow you to reduce your level of snoring and provide a better night’s sleep for both you and your partner.

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