What Causes Snoring? Noisy Breathing During Sleep or Something More Serious? Exploring the Underlying Reasons for Snoring

Contents hide Beyond a Nuisance Self-Treatment Snoring Symptoms Obstructive Sleep Apnea Seeing a Doctor Causes Risk Factors Complications Noisy Breathing Quick Snoring Facts Snoring Basics Apnea Remedies Avoiding Sedating Medications and Alcohol Easing Nasal Obstruction … Read more

Written by:


, Sleep Researcher
Last Updated: Wed, December 5, 2018
Fact checked by:

Marko Jevtic

, Sleep Specialist

You might be among the significant percentage of adults who snore occasionally and if not, you probably know a person who does. They may be the subject of jokes during family gatherings and events but snoring can actually be a serious issue.

Snoring spouses, for example, usually keep the other individual from enjoying a good, wholesome night of sleep, which can lead to sleeping in separate bedrooms eventually. Snoring has the potential to create major problems within a marriage.

Beyond a Nuisance

Aside from snoring being a nuisance, most of the people who snore are susceptible to obstructive sleep apnea. This is a condition that is characterized by breathing being disrupted for short periods of time during sleep and heightens the risk of heart disease.


It is advisable to exercise caution when treating yourself with over the counter pills or sprays until you have consulted a sleep expert or your doctor. Many aids that are designed to stop or prevent snoring are promoted without their claims being backed up by scientific studies. There are various lifestyle changes and natural solutions that can be implemented to help you minimize or stop snoring. These include changing your sleep position.


Snoring refers to the abrasive, harsh or hoarse sound that happens as air is flowing past the relaxed tissues within the throat. This results in the tissues vibrating while you sleep. Virtually everyone snores from time to time but it can be a chronic issue for some people. There are times when it may be an indication of a serious health problem.

Additionally, snoring can bother your partner. Lifestyle changes like sleeping on the side, avoiding alcohol at bedtime and losing weight can help to stop snoring. Additionally, surgical procedures and medical devices are available to reduce snoring that is considered to be disruptive or obstructive. However, these may not be necessary or suitable for everyone who has a snoring issue.


Snoring is usually linked to a sleeping disorder that is known as obstructive sleep apnea. It is important to note that some snorers do not have OSA or obstructive snoring apnea. However, if any of the following symptoms accompany snoring, you may need to see a doctor or sleep expert for further evaluation:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea usually features loud snoring that is followed by silence when breathing nearly stops or stops. This pause or reduction may eventually cause you to wake up and awakening may be accompanied by a gasping sound or loud snort.

You might sleep lightly because of disrupted sleep. The pattern of pauses or reduced breathing may be repeated several times during the night. People who have obstructive sleep apnea often experience periods when breathing stops or slows a number of times during each hour of sleep.

Seeing a Doctor

It is important to see a doctor if you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms. They may indicate that your snoring is linked to OSA or obstructive sleep apnea. Consult your pediatrician if your child snores since children can also have OSA. Throat and nose problems like enlarged tonsils as well as obesity can cause your child’s airway to become narrow and lead to the development of OSA.


A number of factors can lead to snoring like your weight, cold, allergies, alcohol consumption and the anatomy of your sinuses and mouth. When dozing off and transitioning from light to deep sleep, the muscles that are located within the roof of the mouth or soft palate, throat, and tongue relax.

Tissues in the throat are able to relax enough to block your airway partially and vibrate. Airflow becomes more forceful when the airway is narrower and this leads to an increase in tissue vibration and causes louder snoring.

The following factors can have an impact on the airway and lead to snoring.

Risk Factors

Risk factors that contribute to snoring may include the following:


Snoring habitually may be much more than a nuisance. Along with disrupting someone else’s sleep, snoring that is linked to OSA may place you at a higher risk for certain complications, which include:

Noisy Breathing

Snoring can be described as the noisy breathing that occurs when sleeping and as a result of tissue vibrating within the upper airway. This is a common problem that can affect many people at some point in their lives. It is usually harmless and can be relieved through a variety of home remedies.

Treatment may be available if these remedies do not work. Snoring may be associated with a more serious health condition. When snoring becomes disruptive or other symptoms arise, it is important to see a health professional.

Quick Snoring Facts

Snoring Basics

When people are awake, tissues in the upper airway and throat are open to ease the intake of air into the lungs. During sleep, the tongue and soft tissues relax and can block the airway partially. If the air coming in and out encounters sufficient resistance, snoring or vibration can occur.

Frequent nasal congestion, drinking alcohol, smoking or obesity can all heighten the risk of snoring habitually. Snoring is considered to affect a higher percentage of males than females who are between 30 and 60 years old.

Snoring may an indication of medical conditions like:

Snoring has been associated with thickening of the carotid arteries wall, which transports blood to the brain and can lead to a greater risk of stroke.


Sleep apnea can lead to a type of snoring that is characterized by the person appearing to cease breathing for a period of time between snores and gasping or choking sounds may be produced. Aside from loud snoring, the following symptoms can arise from sleep apnea:

Any person who experiences these types of symptoms is advised to see a doctor because sleep apnea may be a symptom of another condition like acromegaly, hypothyroidism and high blood pressure.

Sleep apnea and snoring also increase the possibility of sleep being disrupted. This can cause difficulty concentrating and fatigue. It can also lead to a higher risk of certain mental health challenges.

A dental or medical provider may have the ability to help to determine the cause and suitable interventions that can stop the snoring.


Various remedies can help with snoring.

Avoiding Sedating Medications and Alcohol  

Drugs that are derived from the sedative or depressant class are aimed at relaxing the muscles, which causes them to collapse. Alcohol works as a depressant. It is important to avoid it for a few hours before sleeping. Over the counter or prescription sleep aids should ideally be taken under the guidance of a doctor.

Easing Nasal Obstruction

Medicines and various methods are available to help minimize inflammation. These include room humidifiers, antihistamines, moisturizing and corticosteroid nasal sprays and nasal strips. Items such as room humidifiers can be bought online.

Adjusting Sleep Positions

Sleeping position has an impact on the possibility of snoring. Sleeping on the back can lead to the relaxed tongue blocking the airway. Alternative sleeping positions that you can try include:

Weight Loss

Fat tissue can narrow and surround the airway in an individual who is overweight and the obstructed flow can cause snoring. Losing weight is an effective way to minimize the risk of snoring.


Customized oral appliances that are similar to mouth guards or retainers move the jaw and tongue slightly forward to keep the airway opened. Specially trained dentists usually design and make these types of appliances.


Throat exercises can be useful for strengthening flabby, weak throat muscles and preventing them from collapsing while you sleep. To see any worthwhile results, these exercises should be carried out consistently.

Quitting Smoking

As an irritant, tobacco smoke can lead to tissue inflammation. Since the passage of the upper airway is narrow, any amount of inflammation can disrupt airflow. Quitting smoking may minimize inflammation along with the risk of other conditions and diseases.

Improving Sleep Hygiene

Sleeping consistently on a comfortable bed in a cool, dark room can help you develop a better sleep hygiene program. Lack of sufficient sleep has been associated with weight gain and can cause snoring. Other tips for guaranteeing a good night of sleep and rest include:

Medical Intervention

If snoring is associated with sleep apnea or severe, a doctor may provide treatment. For individuals who have moderate to severe sleep apnea, treatment may involve delivering pressurized air via a face or nasal mask.


Medical attention may be beneficial for severe snoring. If other remedies are not effective, there are numerous surgical procedures that are performed to reduce snoring. These include the removal or enlarged adenoids and tonsils.

Snoring may be a sign of a major health problem but it can also be disruptive and embarrassing to the person, the sleep partner as well as other people within the household. Looking for treatment may be the right step towards overall good health and wellbeing.

Occasional and Habitual Snoring

Snoring is a relatively common condition that can afflict anyone but it happens more frequently in men and overweight people. Snoring tends to worsen with age. What causes snoring occasionally may not be serious and is mainly a nuisance for your sleep partner.

On the other hand, a habitual snorer not only disrupts the sleep of anyone who is close to you, but it also diminishes your own quality of sleep. Medical assistance may be necessary for frequent snorers as well as their loved ones to facilitate a good night’s sleep.

When Snoring is Chronic

Individuals who snore frequently are not usually aware that they have the condition. There are a number of symptoms that provide clues of snoring at night:

Mechanism of Snoring

Snoring happens when nasal breathing is restricted or the upper airway narrows. The muscles and soft tissue of the person’s throat relax, which reduces the airway’s diameter. This reduction produces noise when breath is entering or exiting the airway, comparable to the air that flows through a whistle.

Things that relax or enlarge the soft tissues of the mouth or throat can result in snoring. This is the reason why snoring often happens after taking particular sedating medications or drinking alcohol. The following factors may heighten the risk of snoring:

Sleep Apnea vs. Snoring

Although the terms are mixed up or used interchangeably sometimes, sleep apnea and snoring are not actually the same thing. Central and obstructive sleep apneas are conditions that feature temporary interruptions of breathing during sleep. Breathing pauses can reduce levels of blood oxygen and enable the buildup of carbon dioxide in the body.

Snoring, by contrast, does not consist of apneas or interrupted breathing during sleep. However, snoring chronically is a warning indication of sleep apnea. A large percentage of people who snore have obstructive sleep apnea as well. If you snore and observe any of the following warning signs, it is advisable to seek treatment.

Is Snoring Rare?

Many men and women are actually regular snorers, including more than 40% of men and at least 30% of women. Virtually everyone can snore but particular physical attributes increase the likelihood of snoring. Snoring is common in men and excess body weight heightens the risk of snoring. The possibility of snoring also increases with age.

Behavioral Changes

Snoring can annoy your bedmate and damage your health. The good news is that treatments are available for chronic or frequent snoring. Many treatments are natural, simple fixes that you can try at home. Convincing someone who snores that they require intervention may be the biggest challenge.

Affordable, natural treatment for snoring often starts with behavioral therapies or interventions. Snorers can completely get rid of or alleviate the symptoms by a implementing a few lifestyle changes like:

Anti-Snoring Aids

If lifestyle changes do not ease the symptoms of snoring, you can invest in a variety of anti-snoring devices and products.


Research shows that combining domperidone and pseudoephedrine can help apnea and snoring.

Coping with a Snorer

One of the major aspects of snoring is the individual who shares the bedroom or bed with a person who snores. Although the snorer may be able to continue sleeping, partners are often disrupted as they attempt to fall asleep or may wake up in the middle of the night due to loud snoring.

When snoring cannot be entirely eliminated by surgery, products or behavior change, you can consider another approach to seeking relief.

Smartphone Apps

Consider investing in a smartphone app or white noise machinery. The machines offer a static, white noise background that effectively drowns out other noises. Smartphone apps that provide a similar functionality have become popular because they do not require extra space and usually consist of other sound libraries like ambient music and sounds of nature.


You can use earplugs to reduce noise. They are available in various sizes and everyone can find one that will fit comfortably in their ears.


Think about getting a bigger mattress. Your wallets and intimacy will feel the negative impact of sleeping in separate bedrooms or beds. The cheaper alternative is to invest in a bigger mattress that still enables you to maintain the physical closeness of a couple. Additionally, a comfortable mattress makes it much easier for both of you to fall asleep.

Different Bedtimes

Make an attempt to slightly stagger your bedtimes in order for the non-snorer to sleep earlier than the snorer. Being asleep before your partner starts snoring may reduce the likelihood of waking up.

Relaxation Exercises

Try relaxation exercises and meditation. Insomniacs usually depend on breathing techniques, relaxation exercises and meditation to help them sleep at night. These can also help you go back to sleep after being woke up by your partner’s snoring, help you remain calm and fall asleep even when your partner is snoring.

Health Implications of Regular Snoring

Snoring is a common phenomenon among adults around the world. Millions of people and many of them snore on a regular basis.

Final Considerations

Anyone can snore occasionally and everyone has heard someone snore, whether it is a stranger next to you on the plane, a parent or a partner. Noisy breathing or snoring during sleep can manifest in several different sounds and styles but regardless of what its forms are, it is often disruptive and a potential problem for both the sleeper and other people around them who want to sleep. This is particularly true for habitual snoring that represents persistent and ongoing snoring.

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