The stops and starts of someone snoring are standard fare in many sit-coms, but in actuality, almost half of all adults snore at least part of the time and one out of four adults are habitual snorers. It’s a noisy and sometimes embarrassing condition that can also be a symptom of a bigger medical concern.
Snoring occurs when something interferes with the flow of air through the back of the mouth and nose. As you move from a light sleep into deeper sleep, muscles in the roof of your mouth, tongue, and throat all relax and become “floppy”. When this happens, the tissues may partially block your airway and begin to vibrate, which causes the sound of snoring.
Problem snoring is more common in men and in people who are overweight. Snoring typically becomes worse with age, but children can also snore. A child who chronically snores should see a doctor to see if the tonsils and adenoids are enlarged. About half of all people who snore loudly have obstructive sleep apnea.
Causes of snoring
• Muscle tone – Poor muscle tone in the tongue and throat may lead to increased snoring. When the muscles are too relaxed, the tongue can fall back into the airway and block airflow. If the throat muscles are weak, the sides of the throat may be pulled into the airway when the muscles are relaxed.
• Mouth Anatomy– Anything that narrows your airway can contribute to snoring. This includes having enlarged tonsils or adenoids, or having a low, thick soft palate. If the uvula (the triangular piece of tissue hanging at the back of your mouth) is longer than normal, it may fall back into the airway when you sleep, and may also vibrate more. Being overweight can also contribute to narrowing the airway.
• Consuming alcohol – Drinking too much alcohol before bedtime can contribute to snoring. Alcohol relaxes the muscles in the throat and tongue, which decreases your body’s natural defenses against airway obstruction and allows snoring to occur.
• Nasal problems – If your nose is stuffy or blocked, you may be more likely to snore.