Why Do People Snore?

Another common question is "Why do people snore?" At its most basic, this is a very easy question to answer: people snore because tissue in the airway vibrates during inhalation and/or exhalation. But of course this answer is only a superficial one. To analyze this further, it is necessary to break the question of "why do people snore" into two parts: a) What about an airway makes it more likely to snore?, and b) Are there conditions under which one is more likely to snore? The next few paragraphs will attempt to answer the question in further detail.

What About An Airway Makes It More Likely To Snore?

The first way of answering the question of why do people snore is to focus on the airway. There are three main areas in the airway that are predisposed to vibration. In a way, these can be thought of as "bottlenecks".

The first bottleneck is the nose. If someone has a narrow collapsible nose, a crooked nasal septum (the divider between the nostrils), or enlarged turbinates (the filters in the back of the nose) then there may be snoring vibrations emanating from the nose. The next area of narrowing is at the soft palate (the area where your uvula hangs down - "the punching bag" at the back of your throat). It is not usually so much narrowing as a "floppiness" of the tissues. If this tissue, including the tonsils, is floppy enough then snoring can occur. The final bottleneck is behind the tongue. If the tongue is large or the jaw is small/set back, then the area behind the tongue is smaller and vibrations can occur.

Are There Conditions Under Which One Is More Likely to Snore?

The previous paragraphs answered the question of why do people snore by looking at the airway anatomy. But even people with normal airway anatomy can snore under certain conditions. There are four main conditions that can lead to increased snoring in people with normal anatomy: sleep deprivation, sedating substances, weight gain, and certain medical diseases.

Sleep deprivation can cause a decrease in throat muscle tone. Obviously, if the throat is floppier it is more likely to vibrate. Thus, people with normal airway anatomy can snore when sleep deprived.

One of the most common answers to the question of why do people snore is...alcohol. Sedating substances like alcohol, muscle relaxants, pain medications, and even some sleeping pills can cause an increase in muscle relaxation at the throat. Thus, sedating substance like alcohol can be a common cause of snoring in normal people.

One of our societies biggest health problems is obesity. When people gain weight, particularly men, there can be fat deposits in the neck, around the throat. These fat deposits can change the shape of the airway in such a way as to encourage snoring.

The last reason a person with normal anatomy may develop snoring is under certain medical conditions. Hypothyroidism is a medical condition where a person's thyroid levels are low. When thyroid levels are low, the tissues in the throat change in terms of floppiness. So patients with hypothyroidism are more likely to have snoring and sleep apnea. Another common medical condition, menopause, can lead to snoring in a woman who previously didn't snore. These are just two of the many medical causes of snoring.

As you can see, the question of why do people snore is more complicated than it seems at first glance. In this article, I have tried to answer the question in a more thorough way. In any article about snoring, it is important to note that snoring can be an indicator of a much larger problem called sleep apnea. If you snore, it is important that you be evaluated for sleep apnea as sleep apnea puts one at increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes. If you are asking yourself the question "why do people snore" because you yourself snore, it would be a good idea to make an appointment with a sleep medicine specialist to discuss your snoring further.

Disclaimer: As with all the content on this site, this article is to be viewed as educational only. In no way should this be construed as medical advice. If you are concerned that you might have a sleep disorder, make an appointment with a sleep physician for proper advice.