What causes snoring?


Snoring is more than irritating to your partner--it can be dangerous to your health if it indicates sleep apnea or another serious sleep disorder. Snoring occurs when the walls of the back of the mouth and upper throat vibrate during sleep. Sleep causes the walls to relax and vibrate when air passes over them. The vibrations create the snoring noise.

So what causes snoring? Several factors play a role.

Sleep apnea is the most common cause of snoring. It accounts for about half of all cases of loud snoring. Sleep apnea is a disorder in which breathing becomes interrupted during sleep. Most cases of sleep apnea are due to the airway collapsing when relaxed. This is called obstructive sleep apnea. In rare cases, some apneas occur because the brain fails to properly signal to the body to breathe. That is called central sleep apnea and is uncommon.

Being overweight is another common cause of snoring. Extra weight, particularly around the neck, can cause the upper airway to collapse during sleep.

Aging also can lead to increased snoring. As we age, the throat muscles become more relaxed. This makes them more susceptible to vibration as air passes over them at night.

Prescription muscle relaxants affect the throat muscles and cause the vibration of snoring. Alcohol is also a muscle relaxant and can result in snoring.

Having a cold or allergies can lead to inflammation, or swelling. Inflammation restricts the airway and can cause snoring.

Sleeping on the back leads to snoring in some people. The weight of the throat restricts the airway.

Is snoring dangerous?

Snoring is usually thought of as being a nuisance, but it actually can be dangerous. Snoring caused by sleep apnea is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. People who snore are at greater risk of dying prematurely than people who don’t snore.

How can I stop snoring?

Snoring is treatable. The first step is figuring out what is causing your snoring. Start by talking with your primary care physician. He or she may be able to diagnose and treat your snoring.

If your primary care physician is unable to determine what is causing your snoring, he or she will refer you to a snore doctor. Snore doctors, also called sleep doctors or sleep specialists, can help get to the bottom of your snoring.

Your sleep doctor will likely order a sleep apnea test. At Penn Highlands Healthcare, we offer at-home sleep apnea tests you can do from the comfort of your own bed. If additional testing is needed, your doctor will order an in-lab sleep apnea test.

If you have sleep apnea, your sleep doctor will likely prescribe CPAP therapy. If it’s not sleep apnea, your doctor will work with you on other ways to control your snoring. Other snoring treatments include weight loss, changing sleep positions, wearing a dental device, quitting smoking, not drinking alcohol close to bedtime and surgery.

Do snoring aids work?

Some snoring aids on the market may help with snoring. But many don’t help at all.

Strips that open the nasal passages may help relieve snoring related to congestion from a cold or allergies. Some mouth guards may be helpful. Look for ones that are FDA-approved. There is no evidence to date that sprays, clips, or magnets have any effect on snoring. It’s best to talk to your sleep doctor about what might work for you.

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