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Why do I snore?

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, 45% of adults snore at least occasionally, and 25% of adults are habitual snorers.

Snoring occurs when there is an obstruction to airflow through the passages at the back of the nose and mouth. The obstruction causes vibration of the collapsible part of the airway, when the tongue and upper throat meet the soft palate and uvula.  Snoring is more common in men and those who are overweight, and it usually gets worse with age.

There are many causes of snoring.  In children, snoring is commonly due to enlarged tonsils and adenoids.  Snoring can cause significant sleep disturbances, and healthy sleep habits are vital to ensure your child’s healthy growth and development.  If your child chronically snores, they should be evaluated by an otolaryngologist, who may recommend having their tonsils and adenoids removed.

In adults, snoring can be related to a variety of factors. The following factors can contribute to excessive snoring:

  • Poor muscle tone in the tongue and throat – When these muscles relax during sleep, the tongue can fall backwards and obstruct the airway. This can be exacerbated by alcohol and sleep aids.
  • Excessive throat tissue – overweight people with a thick neck can have excess soft tissue which narrows the airway. Children often have enlarged tonsils and adenoids which can lead to snoring. A long soft palate and uvula can also narrow the airway and act as a noisy flutter valve that causes snoring during relaxed breathing.
  • Obstructed nasal airway – Allergies and colds or sinus infections can cause a stuffy nose, which requires extra effort to pull air through the nose. When this happens, you can have collapse of the floppy tissue at the back of the throat, which leads to snoring. A deviated nasal septum or nasal polyps can also cause a nasal airway obstruction and thus snoring.

Snoring can also be a sign of a more serious condition called obstructive sleep apnea. This condition is characterized by multiple pauses in breathing of 10 seconds or longer.  This disrupts the natural sleep cycle and causes patients to feel poorly rested despite getting enough sleep.  Additionally, it can cause serious health concerns, as the pauses in breathing cause poor oxygenation of the blood, which in turn forces the heart to work harder.  Untreated obstructive sleep apnea can lead to an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and many other serious health conditions.

If you or your bed partner are a heavy snorer, it is important to be evaluated promptly to ensure that you do not have obstructive sleep apnea or another serious cause of snoring. Our physicians are expertly training in evaluating and treating snoring conditions.

There are a number of both surgical and nonsurgical options to treat chronic snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. If you or your partner suffer from heavy snoring, please call our offices today to set up a consultation.  One of our physicians will thoroughly evaluate you and together, you will come up with a treatment plan tailored specifically to you.