Even your sleep position can increase your chances of snoring.
If you’re someone who snores, you might wonder what the causes of snoring are. You might be baffled about why you produce sound at night, but your partner is nearly silent.
Generally speaking, snoring is very common, and it’s usually not a big deal. Many people who snore still sleep well at night. However, it can still be frustrating: It may bother bed partners, or cause self-consciousness when sleeping around others.
Breathing at Night
To understand the causes of snoring, it helps to understand how snoring works. The rumbling sound of snoring comes from vibrations of the throat. When you sleep, the muscles in your throat relax, which causes the throat structures to collapse a little bit. The main culprit is the soft palate. That’s the squishy tissue in the back of the roof of the mouth.
When you’re awake, these muscles are activated, so your airway stays nice and open. Once you’re asleep, they are looser, so they collapse inward. As you inhale, the tissue of the throat vibrates together noisily. This results in snoring.
Possible Causes of Snoring
There are many possible causes of snoring. These tend to be things that make your throat relax more, put more pressure on the throat, or block the airways. The possible causes of snoring include:
- You have breathing problems, such as a stuffy or blocked nose. For example, people with nasal polyps (which block the airways) are more likely to snore.
- You are overweight. Extra soft tissue around the neck puts additional pressure on the throat. This narrows the airway, making it more likely that you’ll snore.
- You are pregnant. Many women who do not usually snore may begin snoring during their pregnancy. That’s because of swelling and weight gain.
- You drink alcohol or take sedatives at night. Depressants help the muscles relax even more, including the muscles of the throat.
- You sleep on your back. Sleeping on your back allows your tongue to fall back toward the throat (thanks, gravity). You might be able to prevent snoring by sleeping on your side instead. Learn more about how your sleep position affects snoring here.
- You have a structural abnormality. Examples include a large tongue or tonsils. These contribute to narrowed airways, which may result in snoring.
When Is Snoring a Problem?
Although snoring is usually not a big deal, it can sometimes be a symptom of a bigger problem. For example, snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea. This is a sleep disorder that can cause you to stop breathing and wake up several times during the night. Untreated, sleep apnea can take a toll on your quality of life and overall health.
Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about your snoring. They can help you seek out better sleep and quieter nights.