Odds are, you snore or have lived with someone who does—either way, it’s a sleep condition we have all experienced. Many consider it an unavoidable part of who they are; however, that may not necessarily be true. Sometimes, all it takes to stop snoring is changing your sleep position or losing some weight.
In our post, we’ll explain what snoring actually is, and some of its causes.
What Is Snoring?
Snoring is the result of obstructed airways while you’re sleeping, and this obstruction is caused by loose tissues at the back of the throat. These tissues are there to keep food and drink out of your lungs, and they do this by covering the top of the windpipe when you swallow., but when this happens during sleep, some problems can occur.
After you doze off at night, your throat muscles relax, and the tissues may cover part of your windpipe. Inhaling makes the tissues vibrate, and this vibration creates the familiar snoring sound. Your snoring may have to do with your physique, or how you sleep.
Common Causes of Snoring
The main causes of snoring are weight gain, sleeping position, nasal congestion, and blocked or narrow airways. All of these increase the likelihood of your windpipe getting partially covered. Sleepers who don’t snore have clear airways all night long.
Gaining weight can cause snoring because flabby throat tissues are more likely to cover the windpipe. The surest way to stop snoring, in this case, is to lose weight. Try adding extra fruits and vegetables to your diet and exercising more often. A healthier lifestyle not only helps you stop snoring, it also improves your sleep quality and makes your mind sharper.
How you sleep also affects your airways, as back sleeping—either with either a very thin pillow or no pillow at all—naturally positions the throat tissues over part of your windpipe and makes you more prone to snore. Back sleepers who snore can find some relief by sleeping with a wedge pillow under their head and upper back or an adjustable base since these prop your head up and keep you sleeping at an incline.
While back sleepers are susceptible to snores, side sleepers are not, so if you tend to snore often, switching to your side may help. Side sleeping naturally opens your airways, because the tissues fold away from your windpipe, and it also keeps your body in a neutral position to give you a healthy, pain-free sleep.
It’s not unusual to snore when you’re sick with the cold or flu because congestion can clog your nasal passages, forcing you to mouth breathe at night. Mouth breathing exacerbates snoring since the tongue relaxes into the back of your throat, blocking airways.
Using a humidifier in your bedroom when you have a cold can add moisture to the air and soften the mucous clogging your nose. We also suggest sleeping with your head elevated since this helps drain the nasal passages. To sleep at an incline, try an adjustable bed or wedge pillow.
Blocked or Narrow Airways
In addition to weight gain, congestion, and sleeping position, a smaller windpipe can also cause you to snore because your tissues are more likely to obstruct your breathing when collapsed. If you think your snoring is caused by narrow airways, a snoring guard can help; this is a mouth guard that opens your airways and improves breathing by pulling your lower jaw forward.
Blocked airways, and therefore snoring, could be a sign you have obstructive sleep apnea—a sleep disorder that interrupts your breathing throughout the night. Those who snore loudly and wake up feeling exhausted should get checked for this disorder.
More Serious Causes of Snoring
Sleep apnea is a disorder that makes your breathing stop and restart periodically while you sleep. Snoring is just one symptom of sleep apnea, but snoring and sleep apnea are often confused. You can tell if you’re snoring is more than just snoring if you’re waking up throughout the night and feeling exhausted during the day.
Apart from snoring and daytime fatigue, the most tell-tale sign of sleep apnea is waking up gasping for air. Though, for others, the signs may not be as clear. If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, we suggest talking with your doctor to determine the best next steps for diagnosing the disorder and finding better sleep.
Three Kinds of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea comes in three forms—obstructive, central, and complex—all with different causes. Regardless of whether you have obstructive, central, or complex sleep apnea, they all cause interrupted breathing throughout the night.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common, and it occurs when the tissues in the back of your throat cover most of your windpipe—causing an obstruction—making you snore loudly. Overweight sleepers are more prone to OSA.
Central Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea is far less common and is the result of poor communication between neurons in the central nervous system, occurring when the sleeper’s brain briefly forgets to send signals to the muscles controlling breathing. Snoring is not a symptom of this kind of sleep apnea, but waking up to gasp for air can be a sign.
Complex Sleep Apnea
This sleep apnea is a mix of obstructive and central. The throat tissues block the airways, and the sleeping brain doesn’t always tell the throat muscles to breathe. Snoring is one symptom of this disorder, along with waking up throughout the night.
All forms of sleep apnea are serious, so it’s important to seek treatment for this disorder early. Depending on what kind of sleep apnea you have, and the severity of symptoms, your doctor may recommend a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. CPAP machines help to breathe by pumping pressurized oxygen into the lungs.
Is snoring a sign of bad health?
Snoring is not necessarily a sign of bad health, but it could be telling you it’s time to lose weight and build your throat muscles. Snoring, along with other symptoms like daytime exhaustion and waking up throughout the night, could mean you have a form of sleep apnea. Keep an eye out for other symptoms if you believe snoring is a sign of declining health.
Why do people snore loudly when they’re tired?
People may snore louder when they’re tired because their body reaches a deeper level of sleep. At this level, muscles relax more, including the muscles holding the tissues away from your windpipe. During deeper stages of sleep, your body and mind get a chance to rejuvenate from the day before.
Does stress cause snoring?
Stress can indirectly cause snoring; many people deal with stress by eating more, and this makes them gain some weight. Weight gain leads to flabby throat tissues, which are more likely to block your windpipe. A routine with daily exercise and a healthy diet decreases your chances of snoring and helps you deal with the stresses of life.
Is snoring bad for you?
Snoring itself is not bad for you, and many people snore their whole lives without impacting their health. But snoring could be a sign it’s time to make a lifestyle change. Good habits like exercising, having a consistent sleep schedule, and sleeping in a neutral position, all help manage snoring. For people who live a healthy lifestyle and feel well-rested in the mornings, snoring is nothing to worry about.
Does snoring increase with age?
Getting older doesn’t cause snoring, but lifestyle changes that come with age might. As we age, our metabolism slows down. If we don’t adjust our eating habits, we gain weight, and the extra fat in our throats can cause snoring. As long as we maintain a healthy lifestyle, aging and snoring don’t have to go hand-in-hand.
Snoring: Summing Up
Snoring is often not a big deal—some folks snore because they have narrower airways or carry a little extra weight in their neck. What’s important is that you get good quality sleep every night. As long as snoring doesn’t prevent this from happening, there’s no problem.
Concerns arise when you aren’t sleeping deeply and wake up consistently throughout the night. Sleepers with these symptoms should get checked for sleep apnea. If you are plagued by poor sleep quality as a result of snoring, look into buying an adjustable bed base. This handy base lets you sleep with your head elevated in a neutral position, helping you breathe easily all night long.
This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.