There are several reasons that cause you to snore and certain risk factors that make you prone. Snoring is produced during sleep due to some obstruction of the airway, which partially blocks the movement of air to the lungs through either the mouth or nose, or both.

Snoring is a result of the vibrations produced by relaxed soft structures in the throat usually the uvula and the soft palate.

Just as when you speak, your vocal cords vibrate to produce sound, similarly, the soft tissues in the throat vibrate during sleep to produce the snoring sound when you breathe.

The cause of loud snoring (excessively) is an obstructed airway, which becomes narrow. The air being forced through the narrow passage causes vibrations of the relaxed soft tissues in the throat causing the snoring sound.

This happens when you progress from light sleep to deep sleep, which causes the soft tissues to relax and more prone to vibrations.

The more the obstruction, the louder the sound of snoring. In severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the sound of your snoring is enough to awaken not just your bed partner, but even your neighbor, if not the neighborhood.

In cases of obstructive sleep apnea, the obstruction is pretty significant so much so that the cessation of breathing wakes up the person so that he can breathe normally again.

When the person wakes up, the muscles of the throat tighten. This fully opens up the airway, which allows the person to breathe comfortably again. It restores normal oxygen in the blood and to all parts of the body.

This can happen hundreds of times a night depending on the severity of the sleep apnea. It disturbs the person’s sleep and he suffers from sleep deprivation.

If you snore, you should get yourself investigated and treated. Though it sounds benign, you should not ignore this condition. The symptoms and complications can be systemic and serious. Certain home remedies are effective and you should try them out first.  

Why do you snore? Causes

There are five basic factors acting either alone or in unison that cause you to snore.

1. The lax tone of the oropharyngeal muscles and soft tissues. Insufficient muscle tone of the tongue, palate, and pharynx is the cause of most snoring cases in adults. Normally, this musculature opens up the airway to facilitate inspiration.

Due to the reduced muscle tone, the musculature of the pharynx and the tongue fails to do its duty in the respiratory cycle. Due to the laxity of the tongue muscles, the tongue falls back on the airway and vibrates against a flaccid soft palate, the uvula, and the pharyngeal folds.

This happens every time air goes in and out of the airway. It is very difficult to diagnose the laxity of the muscles on physical examination, but a telltale sign is the appearance of vertical folds in the soft tissues of the posterior part of the pharynx.

This effect is more pronounced with certain conditions:

  • The person has drunk alcohol or sedative pills before going to bed.
  • Hypothyroidism also contributes to the lax tone of the oropharynx, loud snoring, and apnea
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Myasthenia gravis

2. Space-occupying lesions. Space-occupying lesions can impinge on the airway and cause you to snore. In children, the cause of such snoring is almost always due to enlarged tonsils and adenoids. Adenoids are glands between the back of the nose and the throat.

3. A congenitally formed receding chin. A receding chin may not allow the tongue to come sufficiently forward during sleep when the muscles relax. The tongue, therefore, moves backward on the airway blocking it. Again, some craniofacial deformities produce a tongue that is larger than normal and its space becomes too small for it to occupy. It has nowhere else to go except to fall back on the airway and block it.

4. An exceptionally large soft palate and uvula. A large soft palate and uvula narrow the nasopharyngeal opening almost making it slit-like. Breathing is an effort and snoring is common in such cases.

5. Blockage of nasal cavities. If you have a nasal problem, that could be blocking your nasal cavities, it creates a negative pressure in the airway during inspiration. This negative pressure in the upper part of the airway draws the loose soft tissue into the soft part of the airway where they vibrate with inspiration and cause the snoring sound. Hence people who do not snore normally may do so when they have a common cold or allergic rhinitis. Deformities of the nasal septum (deviation), enlarged turbinates (long, narrow nasal passageways), nasal tumors, sinusitis, and nasal polyps are other possible causes of snoring.

Risk factors

Certain factors increase your snoring risks. If you can eliminate these factors and take remedial measures, you can significantly control your snoring.

  • Age. As your age advances, the muscle tone of the throat muscles decreases, causing the muscles to relax and bulge into the airway. This causes obstruction of airflow when you breathe. In such cases, throat exercises will help.
  • Gender. What causes snoring more in men than women is that in general, men have a narrower airway. They also smoke and drink alcohol statistically more than women.
  • Nasal problems. A blocked nose due to sinusitis, a nasal polyp, swollen turbinates or a deviated nasal septum can block your breathing creating a vacuum of a sort in the throat causing you to snore.
  • Enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Enlargement of the tonsils and adenoids obstructs the airway and airflow, which causes snoring.
  • Being obese or overweightObesity causes extra fat tissue to be deposited in the throat (neck collar size 17 inches or more). Obese people also have a lower oropharyngeal muscle tone, which compresses the airway. Both these factors contribute to snoring.
  • Alcohol and certain medications. Alcohol and certain narcotic painkillers cause relaxation of the throat muscles leading to snoring.
  • SmokingSmoking causes inflammation and swelling of the soft tissues of the throat and bronchi in the lungs leading to obstruction of the airway. 
  • Sleeping posture. Sleeping on your back can cause the tongue to fall back causing obstruction of the airway. 
  • A long uvula or soft palate. A long uvula and a soft palate is the commonest cause of snoring as this extra tissue juts into the airway causing its obstruction.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition when your loud snoring is accompanied by periods of apnea (cessation of breathing) of about 10 to 20 seconds. Sleep apnea requires medical evaluation and treatment. Loud snoring is the hallmark symptom of sleep apnea
  • Family history. Hereditary, on its own, is not a contributory factor to make you snore. But, certain risk factors that contribute to snoring can be acquired genetically. They include obesity, certain anatomical anomalies, and medical conditions like obstructive sleep apnea.

Causes and risk factors of snoring in females

About 30% of the adults above the age of 30 years snore and women make up one-third of all adult snorers. Some common reasons why women snore:

  • Pregnancy: The most likely reason why the pregnant woman snores is the surge of pregnancy hormones. This causes the mucous membranes in your nose to get inflamed and swell, leading to a nasal blockage that increases when you lie down. Excessive weight gain is also to blame, as it results in extra tissue around your neck that causes snoring.
  • Obesity
  • Nasal problems
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Obstructive sleep apnea: A recent population-based study showed that 6 percent of women of all ages have moderate or severe sleep apnea.

Each of these causes has to be studied and the accompanying symptoms and complications if any have to be investigated and treated.