Why we snore and how it relates to our anatomy

We hear jokes about snoring all the time. People either poke fun at something they do not like, or refer to someone as boring by calling them a snooze or pretending to snore to show their distain. There are even websites dedicated specifically to snoring jokes. But snoring is no joke. According to the Sleep Foundation, “It is a common problem among all ages and both genders, and it affects approximately 90 million American adults — 37 million on a regular basis.” Snoring affects every cross section of America. It knows no barriers. The bigger question, then, is why we snore in the first place.

The answer is not so simple. There are several factors that contribute to snoring. Some examples of mitigating factors include the following.

● The anatomy of your mouth
● The anatomy of your sinuses
● Alcohol consumption
● Allergies
● A cold or illness
● Weight

Identifying what causes your snoring may require seeing an ear, nose, and throat doctor, or even a sleep specialist. They can examine you and run tests as needed to determine the exact cause of your snoring. However, what is described here is a more generalized explanation for what causes snoring.

As we doze off to sleep, the muscles in the roof of our mouth, tongue, and throat begin to relax. The muscles in your throat can relax and partially block your airway, which creates vibration and noise. The narrower your airway, the more forceful the vibration becomes, which leads to louder snoring. Each person is different; thus, the cause will be different and the treatment will vary. Looking at the following previously mentioned conditions a little more in depth can shed some light on what causes your snoring so that you may have a better discussion with your medical professional.

The Anatomy of Your Mouth

A low, thick palette can narrow your airway. Overweight people can have a narrower airway, leading to louder snoring.


Because alcohol relaxes the throat muscles while decreasing the body’s natural defense against airway obstruction, too much alcohol before sleep can lead to snoring.

Problems with the Nose

A deviated septum, which is the middle portion of the nose, can lead to snoring. Nasal congestion may lead to snoring as well.

Lack of Sleep

Not getting enough sleep can also lead to throat relaxation.

Sleep Positions

People who sleep on their back may snore more as this allows gravity to relax the throat muscles more.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

This is a serious condition in which the throat tissue partially or completely blocks the airway, preventing breathing. If left untreated, this can lead to serious health issues.

There are many instances which may cause snoring. From structural makeup to lifestyle habits, snoring has become commonplace. The best way to see if it is an indicator of something that can be corrected is to seek medical advice.

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