Our culture treats snoring as normal. In books, movies, and TV shows, snoring is how we show someone
is sleeping. Kids fake snoring when they’re trying to pretend to be asleep. We even call sleeping
“catching some zzzzzs.” So snoring is just a part of life, right?
Snoring is the sound that our bodies make when it’s hard to move air through our upper airways. It
means we're struggling to breathe. Snoring leads to microarousals, tiny periods of waking that make
it impossible for our bodies to do the work of sleep.
Snoring makes it harder for our bodies to heal the damage from the day. It makes chaos of our
hormones. It keeps our brains from processing and storing new information. It leads to daytime
sleepiness, which can cause big problems at school, work, home, and on the road. Snoring is a big deal,
and should never be ignored.
Why do we snore?
Snoring is the sound your body makes when it’s hard to move air through the upper airway. When the
airway is narrowed, it takes more force for the air to make it through. This makes a loud noise, just like
blowing on a horn.
There are several main causes of snoring:
Structural issues with the airway. If your sinuses are narrowed or misshapen, that can impact
airflow. Other structural issues include high, narrow palates that reduce space in the nasal cavity,
deviated septums, floppy soft palates, enlarged tonsils, or tongue ties. Babies often snore just because
their nasal passages are so narrow that any slight blockage leads to a big breathing effort.
IIIness and allergies. Allergies, sinus infections, or just the common cold all cause excess mucus and
swollen nasal and sinus passages. A narrower passage means more effort to breathe, and that means
Weight gain in the neck and tongue. When you have excess fat on your lower tongue or around
your neck, it can compress or block your windpipe during sleep. This is a major cause of Obstructive
Sleep Apnea. (OSA).
Low muscle tone in the mouth and throat. If your muscles are poorly toned, they won’t hold their
position well while you sleep, and can block your airway and cause snoring.
Alcohol consumption near bedtime. If you drink close to bedtime, it can relax your muscles so that
they block your airway.
Certain medications. Muscle relaxers and tranquilizers can also affect your breathing and cause
Sleeping position. If you have excessive weight gain or poor muscle tone, sleeping flat on your back
can trigger airway collapse and make the body work harder to move air.
How to help snoring family members get better rest
If you have family members who snore, it’s important to get to the root cause. That’s because snoring
impacts sleep, and sleep impacts every aspect of your mood, health, and mind. Here are a few ways to
improve sleep breathing:
Make sure allergies are well treated. Over-the-counter drugs like Cetirizine (Name brand: Zyrtec)
and Fluticasone (Name brand: Flonase) can help keep your nose and sinuses clear.
See a dentist, primary care physician, or ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT). These professionals
can check for underlying structural issues and, if necessary, refer you for a sleep study.
Use humidifiers and HEPA filters to make your bedroom air easier to breathe. Air that is too dry or
that is full of allergens can irritate your airways and cause them to narrow.
Check your medications. Do some of them lead to muscle relaxation that could cause snoring?
Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you have concerns.
Avoid bedtime alcohol. Drink your last drink 2 hours before bedtime. Any closer, and you'll damage
your chances of a good night’s sleep.
Sleep on your side. Side sleeping can make it easier to breathe.
Eat healthy foods and exercise. The healthier your overall lifestyle, the easier your breathing.
Learn more about sleep, snoring, and the airway so that you can get your family and friends help.
Snoring is a sign that something has gone wrong with your sleep breathing. Take it seriously now, and
avoid big health problems down the road!