Snoring is a bothersome condition, but in some cases it is also an indication of some underlying health disorders and can disrupt one’s family and personal life. Forty five percent of normal adults snore at least occasionally and 25 percent of adults are habitual snorers. Many people who snore regularly or occasionally may not even be aware that they are doing so. Snoring is an involuntary nasal and throat reflex that does not cause any serious health problems. However, there are chances that the snoring may progress to upper respiratory resistance syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder in which you periodically stop breathing while you sleep.

Causes and Risk Factors

According to experts, snoring is the result of blocked or narrow air passages that impede normal breathing. As you move from a light sleep to a deep sleep, the muscles in the roof of the mouth (soft palate), tongue, and throat tend to relax. When the throat muscles relax excessively, the tongue falls back and obstructs airways, which is a cause for noisy breathing. Also, if the airway is too narrow, the airflow becomes very forceful. Narrow airways obstruct airflow in the area where the tongue and roof of the upper throat meet the soft palate and uvula. The grumbling sound is caused by the vibration of the soft palate at the back of the throat while breathing. Snoring becomes louder when there is more tissue vibration. In some cases, the tongue may also inhibit the way of free airflow and cause snoring.

There are a number of other factors that may increase an individual’s susceptibility to snoring.

Age: Although anyone can snore, adults are more prone to snoring. Research shows that the probability of snoring increases with age, and particularly after the middle age because our throats become smaller as we grow older. Snoring in children is often due to enlarged tonsils and adenoids.
Gender: Men are more likely to snore because they have narrower airways compared with those of women.
Infected nasal passages: Colds, sinus infections, asthma, and allergic reactions may block nasal airways. A stuffy nose causes breathing to be strenuous, which creates more of a vacuum in the throat and results in noisy inhaling.
Being overweight: Being overweight contributes to the narrowing of the airway. Therefore, overweight individuals have a greater risk of snoring than others.
Smoking and alcoholism: Smoking and alcohol consumption are known to relax the throat and tongue muscles. Smoking also leads to nasal congestion. Therefore, smoking and alcohol consumption are potential risk factors for snoring.
Tablets and pills: Certain types of allergy tablets, such as antihistamines and sleeping pills, can also lead to snoring.
Sleeping posture: Sleeping flat on your back is also a risk factor because it relaxes throat muscles and obstructs the airway.
Heredity: Narrow airways may run in families from generation to generation and increase the susceptibility to snoring for family members.
Mouth anatomy: A low, thick soft palate or enlarged tonsils or tissues in the back of the throat (adenoids) can narrow the airway. Similarly, if the uvula is elongated, airflow becomes blocked and the vibration becomes augmented.

Sleep apnea: In the case of sleeping disorders, the throat tissues hinder the airway and prevent an individual from breathing through the nose. In such conditions, loud snoring followed by periods of silence, which can last for ten seconds or more, is typically observed. Finally, the lack of oxygen and an increase in carbon dioxide forces you to wake up and open your airway with a loud snort or gasping sound. This may happen several times throughout the night.

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