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What Causes Snoring – And What Can You Do About It?

What Causes Snoring – And What Can You Do About It?

Is snoring keeping you—or someone you love—up at night?

If so, you’re hardly alone. The National Sleep Foundation says that 90 million American adults snore at least occasionally, while 37 million do so on a regular basis.

Dr. Eric J. Kezirian, Professor of Otolaryngology at the University of Southern California, explains that snoring is simply the vibration of structures inside your throat while you sleep.

While we’re sleeping, muscles of the throat and soft palate may relax, causing airflow to become turbulent, or irregular, which produces those annoying, familiar sounds of snoring.

But why do some people snore? Snoring can be caused by sleep apnea, but not always: about half of people who snore regularly have sleep apnea, while other cases are caused by other factors.

Snoring treatment involves determining what is causing the irregular airflow, then identifying ways to correct it. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, help may be as close as your dentist’s chair. A customized mandibular positioning device can be worn while you sleep, keeping your airway open, your bedroom quiet and helping you breathe easy while you sleep.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that typically involves the lateral walls of the throat and epiglottis.

In patients with sleep apnea, the throat becomes partially or completely blocked during sleep. This causes loud snoring followed by periods of silence when breathing stops due to lack of airflow. The patient will briefly wake with a gasp or snort, to clear the airway before going back to sleep.

A person with sleep apnea could have 5 – 100 episodes per hour.  Anything more than 30 episodes per hour would be considered severe sleep apnea.  

Sleep apnea symptoms include snoring, choking or gasping during the night, severe headaches upon waking, daytime sleepiness and insomnia.

Left untreated, patients may be at higher risk for a number of health conditions and complications:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Acid reflux
  • Brain damage
  • Dementia
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Death

What Can Cause Snoring Besides Sleep Apnea?

Besides sleep apnea, there are other factors that can increase your likelihood of snoring. Some of these factors can be corrected with simple lifestyle changes, while others may require the help of a health professional to address.

  • Anatomy of mouth, throat or nasal passages. Variations in the size and shape of structures in your mouth, throat and nose can contribute to snoring.
    • Elongated or thickened uvula —the familiar tissue at the back of your throat
    • Small upper or lower jaw
    • Enlarged tonsils
    • Thick tongue
    • Low, thick soft palate
    • Deviated nasal septum
  • Obesity or overweight. Excess weight can lead to excess fat layers in and around the throat. This can put you at higher risk of airway obstruction and snoring. An enlarged neck circumference (men greater than 17 inches, women greater than 15 inches) will increase risk for sleep apnea.
  • Aging. Snoring can happen at any age, but occurs more frequently in older adults.
  • Gender. Men and women both snore, but men do so more often. While men are more likely to snore at all ages, women are more likely to snore after menopause.
  • Pregnancy. Although women snore less often than men overall, snoring tends to increase during pregnancy. Weight gain and increased fluid retention may contribute to this, and many women will stop snoring after delivery.
  • Alcohol consumption. Alcoholic beverages relax your throat muscles. This increases your risk of airway obstruction and snoring while sleeping.
  • Sleep deprivation. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you may be more likely to snore when you finally do catch up on your Z’s. When your body is overtired or fatigued, your throat muscles may relax more than normal and cause snoring.
  • Sleep position. Some people are able to stop snoring by simply choosing to sleep on their sides instead of their back. This is because gravity can narrow your airway when you’re on your back.


Are you looking for snoring solutions for yourself or a loved one? Contact Excel Dental for an appointment with Dr. Davis or Matthews.

Our office works closely with a board-certified sleep physician to test you for sleep apnea while you sleep in the comfort of your own home. If your results come back positive, we may be able to help with a convenient, non-surgical sleep apnea treatment to help you—and your loved ones—get a better night’s sleep!