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April 29, 2024 8 min read

Why do people snore? This question may be top of mind if you or someone in your household snores. And you wouldn’t be alone. Snoring is incredibly common, with 45% of American adults believed to snore occasionally and 25% regularly.

Snoring statistics

But even though snoring isn’t unusual, it can still significantly impact your daily life. Not only can it disrupt your sleep, but it can also lead to health problems and strained relationships with your bed partner. 

To get to the root of snoring and what you can do to find relief, let’s first look at what causes snoring in the first place.

Understanding Snoring

We all know what snoring sounds like. But why do people snore, and what’s the science behind it? 

Anatomically speaking, snoring occurs when the soft tissue in the throat vibrates. When we sleep, our throat muscles relax and loosen, making them more likely to flutter when our airflow is blocked. Trying to move the same amount of air through a narrowed airway causes the loud, rattling sound of snoring.

Common Causes of Snoring 

Some people are more prone to snoring than others due to physical causes, medical conditions, and lifestyle choices. We’ll take a closer look at all three snoring causes below.

1. Physical Causes

Physical causes of snoring

Nasal Issues

Blocked nasal passages constrict your normal airflow and cause you to breathe through your mouth at night, increasing your risk of snoring. Nasal issues like polyps, which are large growths in the nose lining, can restrict nose breathing. A deviated septum, which occurs when the cartilage dividing the nostrils is slightly crooked, can also make it harder to breathe through the mouth and contribute to snoring.

Sleep Position 

Your sleep position can also be a contributor. Research shows that sleeping on your back can increase the severity and frequency of your snoring. That’s because when you sleep on your back, it causes your airways to narrow.

Anatomy of Mouth and Throat

Some people have a naturally narrow airway. Others may have anatomical features that make them more likely to snore, such as a small jaw, an enlarged tongue, or a low, thick, soft palate. The uvula — the fleshy ball that hangs in the back of the throat — can also obstruct airflow if it is exceptionally long.

2. Medical Conditions

Medical causes of snoring

Sleep Apnea

If your snoring is loud and jarring at night, it could indicate a sleep disorder, such as  sleep apnea. This is especially true if snoring accompanies symptoms like gasping for breath at night and excessive daytime sleepiness. 

Sleep apnea can be one of two types: central or obstructive. In both conditions, breathing repeatedly stops and starts when you sleep. With central sleep apnea, your brain doesn’t send your body the correct signals to breathe. But with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the pause in breath is caused by something blocking the airflow to the lungs.

Allergies and Sinus Issues

Chronic nasal congestion — caused by allergies, infections, and environmental irritants — is another reason for snoring in adults.  One recent study even found that the participants with severe nasal congestion were three times more likely to be habitual snorers. 

Inflammation of the sinuses, or sinusitis, can also cause nasal congestion and lead to snoring.

GERD

 Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and snoring are also connected. GERD symptoms are often worse at night than during the day, thanks to gravity. Your stomach acid generally falls back into your stomach since you stay mostly upright during the day. However, at night, when you’re horizontal, acid can travel to the back of your neck and soft palate. This acid reflux causes irritation and swelling that blocks your airway.

3. Lifestyle Factors

Lifestyle causes of snoring

Weight

​​Obesity is known to increase the risk of obstructive sleep apnea and worsen its symptoms, including snoring. Gaining weight, especially around the neck, can change the structure of your upper airway, narrowing it and restricting airflow. Extra weight around your midsection can also make breathing challenging when lying down at night.

Diet

Eating a diet high in sugar, saturated fats, and processed foods may cause weight gain, narrowing your airway. The lactose in dairy products may also increase mucus production in some people, causing nasal congestion, especially when eaten right before bed. Acidic foods could also irritate the lining of your throat and cause inflammation to block your airway.

Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol can relax your throat muscles, including the soft palate and the tissues surrounding the airway. As these muscles relax, they become more prone to blocking the airflow while you breathe, resulting in snoring.

Smoking

Smoking can irritate the tissue in the throat, narrowing the air passages and leading to snoring. Research also shows that smoking can heighten the risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea.

The Social and Emotional Impact of Snoring 

Chronic snoring can keep you up at night, impacting your and your partner’s  sleep quality and quantity. When you’re not well rested, this lack of sleep can lead to memory problems, learning impairments, and mood swings.  Research also shows that chronic snoring can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease among older adults. And if left untreated, snoring due to OSA can lead to severe health issues, such as diabetes and heart disease. 

Snoring can also be challenging to navigate in a relationship. The constant noise can disrupt your and your partner’s sleep, leading to tiredness and irritability throughout the day. Over time, resentment and frustration can build when both parties aren't getting proper rest. That’s why open communication and empathy are essential when exploring snoring solutions for couples.

Diagnosing Snoring 

Talk with your doctor if you frequently snore and are worried about potential health problems. Seek medical help if you’re experiencing other symptoms, such as headaches, daytime drowsiness, weight gain, and problems concentrating. 

Your healthcare provider will perform a physical examination and ask you about your family medical history. From there, they may recommend a sleep study to evaluate your sleep cycles and snoring, heart rate, oxygen levels, brain wave activity, and movements during your sleep. 

Comprehensive Solutions and Remedies 

Snoring solutions and remedies

Once you know what’s causing your snoring, you can implement a treatment plan. Regardless of whether your snoring can be cured, various changes and remedies can help you sleep better at night. Here are a few common snoring solutions.

Lifestyle Changes

Eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent snoring. Practicing good sleep hygiene, reducing your alcohol intake, and quitting smoking are also reasonable steps to take each day.

Medical Interventions

 If sleep apnea is the cause of your snoring, you may need more intensive treatments. These could include  continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which uses machines to keep your airways open while you sleep. Anatomical features causing your airways to block may need to be addressed through surgery. For less severe cases, anti-snoring mouthpieces can help hold your tongue or jaw, preventing your airway from being blocked while you sleep.

Technological Solutions

Many smartphone apps, fitness trackers, and smartwatches have sleep-tracking features that can detect and monitor your snoring patterns. This technology can also provide helpful information about your sleep cycles, breathing patterns, and heart rate.

Home Remedies 

For snorers who suffer from congestion, sleeping with a humidifier and using decongestant nasal sprays can help keep your nasal passages clear. Positional therapy is also another way to stop snoring naturally. When you sleep on your side, especially while using positional pillows like MedCline’s sleep solutions that offer gentle elevation, it helps to keep your airways clear.

Prevention and Management

Regular medical checkups will help you catch any underlying issues behind your snoring. This early intervention can prevent complications and long-term sleep problems. 

Making healthy changes to your lifestyle and sleep habits can also help you manage your snoring. In particular, research shows that physical exercise is highly beneficial in managing snoring and other OSA symptoms. In one study, patients who exercised regularly increased their muscle tone in their airways, which led to reduced neck fluid, better sleep, and less daytime drowsiness.

Myths vs. Facts 

Now that we know what causes snoring let’s examine several misconceptions and set the record straight.

Myth 1: Snoring is a sign of good sleep. 

Fact:Snoring is frequently a sign of disrupted sleep, especially in cases where the snorer has sleep apnea and is waking up constantly throughout the night. 

Myth 2: Snoring isn’t genetic. 

Fact:While there isn’t one specific “snoring gene,”recent research has found over 170 genes linked to snoring. Many of these genes (nearly 80%) are associated with the risk of developing OSA. 

Myth 3: Thin people don’t snore. 

Fact:Obesity and excess weight increase the likelihood of snoring, but people of all sizes can snore. This can be due to other contributors like nasal congestion, hormonal changes, and even sleep position.

Myth 4: Snoring can’t be cured naturally. 

Fact:Simple and natural changes can make a huge difference in whether or not you snore at night. For example, sleeping on your side with your head elevated can  address poor sleep patterns and keep your airways open throughout the night. Anti-snoring pillows, like  MedCline’s Sleep Solutions, keep you snuggly in position. Our medically proven pillows offer snoring relief with an elevation angle to keep your head comfortably lifted. 

Conclusion

Addressing your snoring is critical to your sleep quality and overall mental and physical health. It can also greatly impact your household’s well-being, helping everyone sleep better at night. 

At  MedCline, we’re invested in helping you find a solution. Our anti-snore pillows are backed by science and offer safe, non-medication treatment. Made with adjustable memory foam stuffing, our seamless design features full body support and a patented arm pocket to keep sleepers elevated and comfortably in place. Our  wedge pillows also help reduce acid reflux at night, preventing the backflow of your stomach contents from reaching the throat and worsening your OSA symptoms. 

For more information about how our snoring solutions can help with snoring, head to our  MedCline FAQs or reach out to our team of  Sleep Specialists today! 

Resources

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"Snoring."Yale Medicine,www.yalemedicine.org/conditions/snoring.



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