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What Causes Snoring? The Science Behind it

By HERWriter Guide
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What causes snoring? Jacopo Romei/Flickr

Snoring has long been a subject for jokes and eye rolls, and a cause of sleepless nights for hapless partners. Snoring has also compelled couples to sleep separately.

All jokes aside, snoring is difficult for snorers and partners alike. It can also be a sign of something more serious than just breathing loudly at night.

EmpowHER describes snoring as "the sound produced by obstructed breathing during sleep. People who snore have an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke."

But what exactly goes on in the body when someone snores? What factors are brought together to cause snoring and what can snoring be a sign of?

Let’s explore the science behind snoring.

When a person snores, it’s a symptom indicating that something is going on with their breathing while they sleep. The journal Scientific American spoke with University of Michigan sleep expert Lynn D’Andrea for more answers.

She explained that snoring is “the combination of turbulent airflow through the hypotonic airway structures that results in the harsh vibratory noise known as snoring. Any membranous part of the airway lacking cartilaginous support, including the tongue, soft palate, uvula, tonsillar pillars and pharyngeal walls, can vibrate. When you sleep, muscle tone throughout your body decreases, or becomes hypotonic. This relaxation of the upper airway muscles during sleep may decrease the size of the airway space and cause airflow limitation and turbulence.”

So now that we know how it happens, let’s look at why it happens.

Risk factors for snoring are being over 50, overweight, male, nasal/airway obstructions and use of drugs or alcohol. Some medications, drugs and alcohol are considered respiratory depressions that cause the body to “relax” too much. Thus breathing is less stable and more difficult for the body.

The biggest concern in people who snore is that it can be a symptom of sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a chronic condition where people cannot breathe correctly in their sleep. Their breathing can be shallow and gasping.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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