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How Does Snoring Develop?

Written by Teresa Te on November 3, 2017

Snoring is an annoying inconvenience for some people, and a life-altering burden for others. In total, according to Sleep Education, about 40 percent of adult men and 24 percent of adult women snore on a regular basis. They recognize what snoring is, and how it can affect both their sleep and the sleep of their partner, but most people don’t realize how complicated snoring really is—and how it can develop over time.

The Mechanics of Snoring

Snoring produces noise of varying intensity levels, associated with each breath during sleep. For some people, the sound is a loud vibration, while for others, it’s a hiss or a low groan. In any case, snoring occurs when air can’t move freely through the nose and throat. Without that flexibility of movement, the air makes surrounding tissues vibrate, which causes the audible sound.

How Snoring Develops

The basic underlying cause of snoring is an inability for air to move freely, but there are actually several ways this physical tendency can develop:

  • Genetic factors. According to Snore Nation, there are some underlying genetic factors that could make you more likely to snore, though there are many variables that can affect whether your genetic predisposition becomes a reality. For example, men tend to have narrower air passages than women, which makes them more likely to snore; if your air passages are narrower than usual, you could be more vulnerable to snoring.
  • The shape of your nose and mouth. The shape of your nose and mouth may also affect how easily air can travel while you sleep. If your nose is especially narrow, or if it’s prone to congestion, it may make it more difficult for air to escape naturally. Genetics control at least some of these consequences.
  • Your weight. People who are overweight are more likely to snore than people of a normal or lower weight. There are a few major reasons for this; people who are overweight have more vibratory tissue, which makes them more likely to produce noise when breathing while asleep. They also may suffer from more restricted air passages, which makes it more likely for that tissue to activate.
  • Your stress levels and lifestyle. Certain lifestyle factors can influence how you snore. For example, smoking and drinking alcohol can increase your likelihood of snoring, as can certain medications, like Valium. If you’re especially stressed, you might find it harder to sleep peacefully, which can also lead to snoring, and incidentally, more sleep problems.
  • Your age. As you age, the muscle tone in your throat tends to decrease, and your throat gradually becomes narrower—especially around middle age and beyond. This can increase your likelihood of snoring, meaning it can develop later in life for people who have never experienced it before.
  • How you sleep. How you sleep may also play a role in whether or not you snore. For example, sleeping on your back makes the tissue in your throat relax, which can block the airway and result in more snoring than usual.

What to Do If You Snore

There isn’t an all-around cure for snoring, but there are some strategies that can reduce your likelihood of snoring (or at least decrease the intensity of your snoring). Some of these include:

  • Lifestyle changes. The most important thing you can do is change your lifestyle, in several respects. You can start eating healthier and exercising more, to decrease your stress load and lower your weight. You can cut out alcohol and tobacco. You can even change your sleeping position. Cumulatively, these changes should eliminate at least part of your snoring habits.
  • Mouthguards. Some companies sell mouthguards designed to relax the mouth and throat, allowing you to breathe easier.
  • Surgery. If conventional methods aren’t working, there are some kinds of surgery that can correct snoring in most people. These frequently involve the removal of tissue from the palate, throat, and air passages to allow air to flow more freely.

Snoring doesn’t have to continue affecting your life. Try some (or all) of these prevention and mitigation strategies.