Understanding the Four Main Causes of Snoring

There’s a simple explanation for snoring. When you sleep, your airway narrows, restricting the airflow to your lungs. Breathing creates turbulence that causes your tissues to vibrate, making a snoring sound.

Where it gets complicated is when we look at why your airway narrows. There are many potential reasons why your airway might be narrowing. For convenience, we can divide these into four categories:

  • Environmental causes
  • Lifestyle causes
  • Modifiable anatomical causes of snoring
  • Other anatomical causes of snoring

The first three categories you can address on your own. The fourth category can often be treated professionally, with varying degrees of success. People often have multiple snoring causes at the same time. Sometimes, it’s possible that treating just one will help open your airway enough that your snoring is less intense–or goes away altogether.

Environmental Triggers of Snoring

woman blowing her nose, suffering from seasonal allergiesSometimes, environmental factors can lead to snoring. Most often, these cause swelling of the airway lining, either because of irritation or an allergic reaction. If you can identify environmental factors contributing to snoring, you can address them. Some common environmental causes of snoring include:

  • Chemical irritants like cleaners and cigarette smoke
  • Particle irritants like dust
  • Dry air
  • Allergens like pollen or dust

See if you can reduce chemical irritants by using different cleaners or asking smokers to smoke outside (or at least outside the bedroom). Air filters can sometimes help with irritants and allergens. Humidifiers can help with dry air.

You may not be able to eliminate environmental factors, but sometimes you can reduce them enough that your snoring lessens. Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center experts can guide you in identifying and mitigating these environmental triggers.

Lifestyle Choices That Contribute to Snoring

Many of the things that impact your snoring are lifestyle choices that you have some degree of control over. These include:

  • Smoking
  • Sleeping position
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Eating habits
  • Pregnancy
  • Medications

Sleeping flat on your back gives your airway the least support. Try changing your sleeping position–sleeping on your side or with your upper body elevated can reduce snoring.

Drinking alcohol too close to bedtime makes your muscles relax even more, which can increase the amount of airway collapse you experience.

Eating too close to bed, especially if you eat foods that stimulate mucus production or have a minor allergic reaction, can cause your airway to clog or swell. Avoid foods contributing to snoring, and try not to eat too close to bedtime.

During pregnancy is one of two times when women have a risk of snoring equal to or greater than men. (The other is after menopause.)

Medications can make your airway muscles relax, leading to more airway collapse. This may not be as adjustable as other lifestyle factors. However, if your medications contribute to snoring, ask your doctor if you can try different medications or a different dosage.

Anatomical Causes of Snoring You Can Modify

There are some anatomical causes of snoring that you can impact by changing your lifestyle. These include:

  • Obesity
  • Low muscle tone

Obesity can have a significant impact on your snoring. Being overweight, especially if you carry weight around your throat, can contribute to airway collapse. In addition, fat deposits can build up along the airway. The tongue, especially, can grow significantly larger as you gain weight. However, losing weight is not always easy, especially if you have sleep apnea, which affects your body’s ability to burn calories.

Your muscles relax at night, but if they are stronger, they will better keep your airway open even when they relax. Some people recommend airway-specific exercises, but little evidence suggests that they’re better than being more active generally. Muscle tone decreases as we age, which is part of why snoring risk increases.

Other Anatomical Causes of Snoring

There are other anatomical causes of snoring that you can’t do much about. These causes might benefit from professional treatments like oral appliances. Surgery might be advised in some cases, but be aware that sleep apnea can increase surgical risks.

Some other causes of snoring include:

  • Deviated septum
  • Enlarged turbinates
  • Large and/or floppy soft palate
  • Enlarged uvula and/or tonsils
  • Large tongue
  • Recessed jaw

The septum is the divider between your nostrils. If it’s deviated, it may obstruct airflow through your nose. In addition, if nostril structures such as turbinates are enlarged, it may restrict airflow. Sometimes, you can remedy this type of snoring with nasal dilators, but it may require surgery.

Throat structures such as the soft palate (the back of the roof of your mouth), uvula, tonsils, and tongue can contribute to a narrow airway.

Finally, if your jaw is back further than ideal, it can narrow your airway. Since your jaw is the primary bony support for your airway, moving it forward can open it even if your jaw isn’t recessed.

Relief from Snoring in Omaha

If you are tired of your snoring or a bed partner’s snoring, the sleep dentists at the Advanced Dentistry Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha can help. Our team of certified sleep dentists has years of experience in treating various sleep disorders, including snoring and sleep apnea.

Ready to put an end to sleepless nights? Contact the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center for a consultation today and take the first step toward restful sleep. Please call (402) 493-4175 or use our online form to request an appointment.