So what is snoring? – Instead of the quiet normal breathing people make when they sleep, snoring is loud and very unpleasant. People who snore make a rattling, vibrating, noisy sound while breathing during sleep. Everybody snores occasionally, but when it becomes chronic, it can disturb your partner’s sleep and have far-reaching effects on your enjoyment of life.
Snoring is incredibly common, particularly in men. Almost 24% of men snore regularly, but they’re not alone. 17% of women snore too.1 If you have a partner or family member who disturbs your sleep night after night with their snoring, you know how disruptive it can be. And if you snore yourself, it’s important for your health – and your family harmony – that you address the problem.
Tell-tale signs that you snore include waking up feeling like you haven’t slept well, being tired or irritable during the daytime, or waking up with a dry sore throat.
You’re much more likely to snore if you drink alcohol in the evening. Taking sleeping tablets or sedatives to help you sleep can also increase your risk of snoring. Some people only snore when they sleep on their back, while others snore in all sleeping positions.
Health risks associated with snoring
Snoring can be a sign that you’re not breathing properly when you sleep. As you fall asleep the muscles in your mouth, tongue and throat relax. Snoring occurs when these tissues relax too much and they partially block your airway and vibrate. Snoring is often associated with a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (or OSA). If your snoring is accompanied by excessive daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, gasping or choking or breathing pauses during your sleep it’s time to see your doctor or take the home sleep test. Left untreated this can affect your health. You owe it to yourself to understand what causes snoring and learn how to stop snoring so everyone can breathe and sleep easier.
Six things that can contribute to snoring or make snoring worse
Sleeping on your back
When you sleep on your back, gravity helps the relaxed muscles in your mouth and tongue to fall back and restrict your airway.
Shape of your mouth
Some people have quite thick tissues at the back of their mouth called an “uvula” or enlarged tonsils or adenoids which can contribute to snoring.
If you’re not getting enough sleep, when you do finally sleep, your muscles relax more and this can be a contributor.
A blocked nose
Allergies, hayfever, colds and flu can give you a stuffy nose and block your airway so that you snore. A chronic sinus infection can also be a culprit.
You’re much more likely to snore if you drink alcohol in the evening because it relaxes the muscles in the back of your throat.
Taking sleeping tablets or sedatives to help you sleep can also increase your risk of snoring.
Different types of snoring
Snoring is caused by a restriction or blockage in airflow while you sleep. The restriction can occur as a result of a problem in your nose, your mouth, your sleeping position or it can be a combination of factors. By working out where the problem is, you may be able to figure out a good solution that helps you (and your partner) go back to sleeping soundly and awakening refreshed.
Nasal snoring occurs when your nasal passages are partially blocked. Nasal snoring sounds vary between (a) consistently loud rumbling sounds, or (b) whistling noises. This may be caused by an allergy, a sinus infection, nasal polyps or a deviated nasal septum (which makes it difficult to breathe through your nose). The common cold can also cause nasal congestion.2
Common allergies associated with nasal congestion are house dust mites, mold, animal hair and pollens.3
Mouth snorers often have blocked nasal passages so they tend to breathe through their mouths when they sleep. This causes the soft tissues inside their mouth to vibrate and produce a low rumbling sound. Another cause of mouth snoring is having enlarged tonsils.4
Mouth snoring can sometimes lead to infection as the air breathed in does not get filtered by the nose.
Tongue snorers can easily be identified by inconsistent high pitched sounds.
This type of snoring occurs because your tongue becomes too relaxed. When this happens, it can drop back into your throat and obstruct your airflow.5
Tongue snoring is more likely to happen if you drink alcohol or use sleep medication. Also, being overweight can increase the risk because you have more fatty tissue around your airway.6
A good way to stop tongue snoring is to use a mouth-guard while you sleep.
Mouth and tongue snoring both tend to be worse if you sleep on your back, so using devices that help to prevent you from sleeping on your back can be helpful. 7
Throat snoring or sleep spnea
Throat snoring is considered the loudest of snores and is the most serious type.
Throat snoring is caused by sleep apnea, which basically means that the person may stop breathing many times during the night.
It can occur in every sleep position, and the noise follows no rhythm at all. The muscles and tissues in your throat become very relaxed resulting in throat collapse, and the air cannot pass through to your lungs.