What Causes Snoring?
So many answers could be given to the question of why people snore and what causes snoring. Snoring comes from the vibration or a partial obstruction of the upper airway, particularly at the rear of your tongue and throat, or to be more specific, in the oropharynx. It doesn’t only occur to humans, but some animals too.
These days, snoring is so common that the general population are unaware of the side effects it can cause. It has become very socially acceptable, most people would laugh about it, make jokes about it, up to the point that even Hollywood movie director, and Disney cartoon animators are using the action of snoring to depict a character that has fallen asleep.
So what causes snoring, why do some people snore and some do not? Is it just a natural thing that we all do?
Lets talk about it.
1. Muscles Relaxing
Naturally, most of us breathe through our nose, only when we’re not getting enough air through the nasal passage, our mouth starts opening, and that’s when the snoring starts.
Snoring is due to a disruption of the upper airway, especially when your throats’ soft muscle relaxes. When we go to bed, the soft muscles behind our nose and throat will start relaxing. In the case of snoring, it has relaxed too much and has blocked the respiratory pathway, creating a resistance against air that is trying to squeeze through. Any air that is squeezing through will create some sort of vibration between the soft muscle tissues, resulting in snoring.
2. Enlarged Tonsils
Tonsils are clusters of lymphoid tissues, and they have a role of defending your body from germs and bacteria, preventing you from getting infections to other parts of the body. Tonsils are usually really good at what they’re doing, but unfortunately, in rare circumstances, viruses and bacteria may get into your tonsils, resulting in them swelling up when infected. Tonsils sit very closely to the back of your throat, so a swollen tonsil will actually create a little obstacle for air to pass through, causing you to snore louder than usual.
Adenoids are very similar to tonsils, except instead of them sitting at the back of your throat, they’re positioned more closely to the back of your nose, on the roof of your mouth. Adenoids are also a part of your immune system, they are responsible in producing white blood cells and antibodies to fight off germs, and it works together with your tonsils to prevent infections to your body. Although much rarer in adults, they can be infected and grow into a big and swollen mass of tissue, blocking your nasal passage, resulting in snoring.
4. Deviated Septum
Deviated septum is also known as a “crooked nasal passage”. The nasal airway is supposed to be clean and clear of obstruction for air to pass in and out without resistance.
If your doctor mentioned you have a deviated septum, think back to your childhood, have you ever been hit in the face by a football? Or accidentally bump yourself in the face? Any of these scenarios could result in you suffering with a deviated septum. In saying that, a deviated septum does not necessary come from such unintentional events, things like birth defects, genetics, or a broken nose may also play a part in you having difficulty breathing on one side of the nostrils.
5. Swollen Turbinates
Turbinates are a series of shelf like structures in your nasal cavity. They are responsible in creating turbulence (hence the name turbinates) when air is passing through.
Turbinates have two main functions:
- Trap dirt from the air you’re breathing in
- Slows down air that’s coming through so it’s warmed up to an appropriate temperature before sending the air down towards your lungs.
There are 3 of these bony and soft like tissue in each of your nostrils. In some people, their turbinates may be quite swollen due to allergies, and become overly enlarged, causing a resistance in the airway, and ultimately, snoring.
Alcohol helps relax our mind, not only that, it relaxes our muscles too, especially the ones at the back of the throat. Alcohol is a depressant, and there is a huge negative correlation between drinking and snoring, this is true even to those who claim they are normally non-snorers. Alcohol may assist you in having a longer, uninterrupted sleep, while it can also create a lot more resistance in your airway due to the extra folding of the muscle, resulting in the extra effort required to breath during the night. Studies have shown that the likelihood of people who do not snore, is 4 times more likely to snore after consuming alcohol, while regular snorers has the elevated risk of 8 times more than they normally do.
If you have ever witnessed your parents’ snore, or your grandparents snore, chances are you will be part of the chorus. DNA plays a big part in snoring because of your muscle composition. A lot of physical attributes such as narrow nasal passage, narrow throat, large muscle mass, or enlarged adenoids or tonsils, could cause you to snore.
Obesity is the major cause of snoring. Overweight people are more susceptible to snoring due to their wider necks, and heavier fatty tissues surrounding their neck. The extra fatty tissues around the neck allow your airways to be compressed and condensed, resulting in the restriction of airflow. The general rule of thumb is, if your neck’s circumference is more than 42cm (16.5 inches), chances are you are a snorer. Even if you’re not overweight in general, even carrying excess weight around the throat can cause snoring.
More and more people these days are snoring, all due to the lifestyle changes in the 21stCentury. Ponder about this, can you think of a home without a TV? I certainly cant, I have even come across houses where there’s more televisions than people living in it! The differences in lifestyle has changed dramatically in the last 50 years, with junk food such as McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken located and easily accessible on every corner of the block, while Netflix and cable TVs are a must have for most household. We rarely see people going outside for a jog these days, but we see office workers sitting on the same chair for 8 hours a day, sometimes even more.
Don’t get me wrong, I love technology, I love the convenience of getting a quick bite, but it is taking a toll on our bodies.
Staying fit is crucial as poor muscle tone and a loss of muscle structure can definitely cause snoring,
Unfortunately, ageing is something that is inevitable. You may realise your partner’s snoring is getting worse and worse as time flies. Snoring can start at any age, but we snore more as we get older due to our muscles become increasingly flaccid with age. As we get older, most of us put on weight, often gaining weight around the neck, so the “throat space” becomes much narrower.
For women in particular, the change may be seen soon after going through menopause. During the time when women are still able to bear children, snoring can be dangerous as it decreases the amount of oxygen intake to the foetus, the hormone progesterone is able to activate a defence mechanism to prevent mothers from snoring. Post menopause, the hormone level of changes, resulting in the loss of defence mechanism, and sometimes weight gain may be an occurrence.