Why do People Snore?

Snoring is such a common problem that almost everyone can tell you about a friend or relative who snores while they sleep. And most people can even tell you about a time they were told they snored as almost everyone, even babies and family pets, has snored on occasion. Studies show that one out of three adults snore a few nights a week and that 45% of men and 30% of women snore. We all know people do it but why do they do it?

Snoring is the sound we hear when structures of the throat and mouth vibrate against one another. These vibrations occur when airflow through the throat is restricted by narrow airways. Your airways are controlled by muscle tone and the more relaxed your muscles are, the more narrow your airway becomes. No one snores when they are awake as the muscle tone is much more rigid. During the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep everybody’s muscles typically relax. Add to this other factors that cause narrowing of the passageways and this increases the probability that snoring will occur iron

There are both structural and functional causes of airway restriction. Structural causes include nasal septum deviation and sleeping posture. Functional causes include smoking and alcohol use.

Sometimes snoring is an indication of a much more serious health problem called obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the tongue gets sucked against the back of the throat, preventing any air flow. Oxygen levels in the brain then become so low that the sleeper awakens enough to clear the obstruction in his/her throat, allowing air to pass again. This often happens with a loud gasp. This repeats over and over resulting in very disruptive sleep, low oxygen levels and tremendous strain on the cardiovascular system. People who suffer from sleep apnea are chronically fatigued during their waking hours and much more prone to suffer from depression. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, stroke or heart failure.

One way to figure out why you are snoring is to keep a sleep journal. You should write down what you had to eat or drink that day, how you were feeling when you went to bed (i.e. did you feel congested or particularly tired), what medications you took, and in what position you fell asleep. If there is no one there while you are asleep you may never even know you were snoring. If you have someone who can tell you, get them to describe how you were snoring (the position you were in and whether or not your mouth was open or closed). The more you know about how you snore, the doctor can tell you why you snore and may prescribe you the best snore guard as the remedy.