What Causes Snoring? (And How to Stop It)

Frustrated woman plugging ears against snoring husband in bed

How often do you snore? Whether you know it or not, everyone has snored at some point in their lives. In fact, about 90 million Americans snore. And while snoring is a common occurrence, it's more than just an annoyance or an inconvenience.

Snoring can actually be a sign of underlying health issues, some of them severe. 

But what causes snoring, and what can you do to stop it? 

Let's take a look at the different factors that can cause snoring, plus six tips to stop your snoring, and when it’s time to talk to your doctor.

What Causes Snoring?

Snoring doesn't have a single cause— it can be caused by many different factors. Here are seven factors that may cause snoring.

1. Nasal Congestion

We've all know how difficult it is to get a good night's sleep when you can't breathe through your nose. This is because when you're congested, the amount of air moving through your airway is reduced, causing the airway to collapse. The air moving out of that narrow space is what creates the familiar sound of snoring.

Allergies and infections like the common cold are the most common causes of nasal congestion, but other factors like a deviated septum or nasal polyps can cause it as well.

Nasal congestion generally clears up on its own— especially if it was caused by an infection— but chronic nasal congestion can lead to chronic snoring.

Related: How to Sleep with a Stuffy Nose

2. Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common but serious sleep disorder where you experience pauses or stops in your breathing during the night. One of the most common and well-known signs that someone has obstructive sleep apnea is if they snore loudly and frequently. In fact, as many as half the number of Americans that snore may have obstructive sleep apnea.

When you have OSA, snoring is caused by your airway becoming obstructed. With sleep apnea, periods of loud snoring are mixed with brief periods of silence when your breathing stops. After a few moments, you may gasp, cough, choke, or snort as you begin to breathe again.

Obstructive sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed because many people don't realize that they have it— most of its symptoms occur while you sleep. In fact, it's usually your sleep partner who knows you have it before you do! 

It's important to see a sleep specialist if you think you have sleep apnea, because left untreated it can cause or worsen a lot of health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

3. Your Age

Your body goes through a lot of changes as you get older. This is especially true as you’re approaching your fifties and sixties. 

Aside from well-known physical changes like aches and pains, you may experience additional changes that you’re not even aware of. Some of these include a loss of muscle tone in your tongue and throat— which can cause airway obstruction and breathing problems while you sleep. 

This is because your tongue and throat muscles may weaken as you get older, which can obstruct your upper airway. This airway narrowing is a common cause of snoring in older adults.

4. Your Anatomy

Sometimes your own body may be causing your snoring problem. Like we said earlier, physical conditions like nasal polyps and a deviated septum can contribute to nasal congestion. Not only that, but they themselves can cause snoring and breathing problems.

Other issues that can cause snoring include:

  • Enlarged tonsils
  • Enlarged tongue
  • A small jaw
  • Excess soft tissue in the throat
  • A low soft palate
  • Hypothyroidism

Surgery is often required to correct these issues. If you think that one of these conditions is causing you to snore, talk to your doctor.

5. Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol's sedative properties make it an unusually popular sleep aid, but it can harm your sleep more than it can help it.

Alcohol relaxes the muscles in your throat, which causes them to obstruct your airway and make breathing more difficult. This is especially problematic for habitual snorers who may have sleep apnea— this combination can make your snoring more severe.

6. Your Weight

Health problems associated with being overweight or obese are well-documented. Being overweight can make you more likely to snore because excess tissue in your neck can obstruct your airway and make it harder for air to pass through while you sleep. Belly fat can also press against your diaphragm causing disruptions to your breathing as well.

Excess weight on your face, neck, and torso can also contribute to snoring and breathing problems.

7. Your Sleep Position

This may surprise you, but your preferred sleeping position may actually cause you to snore! Snoring occurs more often if you sleep on your back, because gravity pulls the tissue in your airway downward, which narrows the airway.

How to Stop Snoring

Thankfully, it can be easy to reduce or stop snoring altogether with some easy lifestyle choices. Here are some easy methods you can try tonight to help you stop snoring.

  • Sleep on your side. This is the best sleeping position to help reduce snoring because it helps keep your airways open.
  • Lose weight. Reducing the pressure on your throat and nasal passages can significantly reduce snoring. In fact, losing any extra weight can not only reduce your snoring, but it may eliminate it completely!
  • Stop smoking. Nicotine and cigarette smoke can irritate your airways and cause inflammation. This can not only cause snoring, but other breathing problems too like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema.
  • Avoid alcohol before bed. You don't have to give up your nightcap or wine with dinner to stop your snoring. Instead, be sure to stop consuming alcohol at least 3 hours before bed. This gives it plenty of time to leave your system so that it doesn't ruin your night.
  • Myofunctional therapy. Myofunctional therapy helps stop snoring through specialized exercises for your nose and throat. These exercises can help rebuild the muscle tone in your mouth and throat, preventing these muscles from obstructing your airways.
  • Reduce congestion with SinuSonic. In just two minutes twice a day, this simple patent-pending sinus therapy device can help relieve nasal congestion and reduce snoring (not caused by sleep apnea) naturally. 

During each treatment session, acoustic vibrations and gentle pressure open your nasal passages and improve the cilia action. Cilia are microscopic hairlike structures that line your nasal mucus membrane. They move particles trapped in mucus out of your nose to help you breathe more freely.

When To See a Doctor

While you can reduce or even eliminate snoring with a few easy changes, some triggers require more in-depth treatment before the snoring will stop. Obstructive sleep apnea is a common cause of snoring, but it won't go away on its own, and it often can't be resolved without specific treatment. 

One of these treatments includes CPAP— also known as continuous positive airway pressure. Sleep clinics also recommend SinuSonic to their patients using CPAP to support their treatment and make breathing with a CPAP mask more comfortable. 

So if you experience the following symptoms, it's important to see a medical professional as soon as possible:

  • Persistent, loud snoring that hasn't gone away after making healthy changes
  • Gasping, choking, or snorting during sleep
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Feeling exhausted each morning, even if you got a full night's rest
  • A dry or sore throat in the morning

Your doctor or a sleep specialist can help you evaluate your symptoms and get you scheduled for a sleep study. A sleep study is an overnight exam that allows doctors to monitor your sleep habits for any problems that are affecting your rest. Following a sleep study, your doctor or a sleep expert may diagnose you with one, or potentially more sleep disorders. From here, they can help you figure out your treatment options.

If you're not sure where to find an accredited sleep specialist in your area, we recommend using this tool from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine

If you or your sleep partner snores— don't sleep on it! The right treatment can help you both sleep better, as well as nip any potentially serious issues in the bud before they become a problem.

Do you have questions about SinuSonic? Let us know!

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