Snoring – Symptoms and Causes

Do you ever get bothered by loud snoring? You’re not alone! Snoring is common—it happens when relaxed throat parts vibrate during sleep. It can be a minor annoyance or a serious issue affecting sleep and relationships. It might signal a medical problem too.

Understanding why we snore and finding solutions can improve sleep and well-being. Let’s explore the causes and symptoms of snoring in this article.


Snoring happens when relaxed throat tissues vibrate as air passes through during sleep, causing snorting or grumbling sounds. It occurs when airflow is partially blocked. The main cause is relaxed throat and tongue muscles, which obstruct the airway and create vibrations when air flows through.

Although snoring is usually harmless, it can indicate underlying issues. Loud, persistent snoring may signal sleep apnea, a condition involving intermittent breathing pauses during sleep.

Signs and Symptoms

Snoring is a noise from relaxed throat tissues during sleep, usually harmless. However, it can be linked to a condition called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Here are signs and symptoms related to snoring and its possible connection to OSA:

  • Witnessed breathing pauses during sleep

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Morning headaches

  • Sore throat upon awakening

  • Restless sleep

  • Gasping or choking at night

  • High blood pressure

  • Chest pain at night

  • Your snoring is so loud it’s disrupting your partner’s sleep

  • In children, poor attention span, behavioral issues, or poor performance in school

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is loud snoring followed by moments of silence as breathing pauses. You may wake up with a snort or gasp, disrupting your sleep. In OSA, these pauses occur at least five times per hour, making sleep a less enjoyable dance.

What Causes Snoring?

Snoring happens when relaxed throat tissues vibrate with airflow during breathing. It occurs due to factors causing a partial blockage or narrowing of the airway. Common causes include:

  1. Age: As people age, the muscle tone in the throat and the overall firmness of tissues tend to decrease. This natural aging process can result in the airway becoming more susceptible to vibrations, leading to snoring.

  2. Alcohol and Sedatives: The consumption of alcohol and certain sedative medications can relax the muscles in the throat excessively. This muscle relaxation can contribute to the narrowing of the airway, making snoring more likely.

  3. Anatomy: The physical structure of the throat and surrounding areas can play a role. Enlarged tonsils, adenoids, or a large tongue may obstruct the smooth flow of air, leading to vibrations and snoring. Moreover, a deviated septum, where the cartilage that separates the nostrils is off-center, can contribute to airway obstruction.

  4. Sex Assigned at Birth: Snoring is more common in people assigned male at birth (AMAB) compared to those assigned female at birth (AFAB).

  5. Family History: There is a genetic component to snoring. If a biological parent snores, there is an increased likelihood that their children may also snore.

  6. Overall Health: Conditions that cause nasal congestion, such as allergies or the common cold, can create temporary obstructions in the nasal passages, contributing to snoring. Pregnant women may also experience snoring due to hormonal changes.

  7. Weight: Excess body weight, particularly around the neck, can contribute to the narrowing of the airway. People with overweight or obesity (a higher body mass index, or BMI) may be more prone to snoring.

Don’t worry if you’ve snored a bit in your sleep—it’s common. But if your snoring becomes a full concert or disrupts your sleep, it’s a good idea to talk to a healthcare professional.

Read more: Can Smoking Cigarettes Cause Snoring?

Snoring Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing and treating snoring involves finding the cause and taking steps to reduce or eliminate it.


  1. Medical History: Your doctor will talk to you about your symptoms and gather information about your overall health, sleep patterns, and any underlying conditions that might contribute to snoring.

  2. Physical Examination: A thorough physical exam may be conducted to check for physical obstructions in your airways. This could involve examining the nose, mouth, throat, and neck to identify any structural issues that might cause snoring.

  3. Diagnostic Tests: In some cases, further tests may be recommended:

    • Imaging Tests: X-rays, MRI scans, or CT scans can provide detailed images of the airway to identify any anatomical obstructions.
    • Sleep Study: Polysomnography, conducted either in a sleep lab or using at-home monitoring devices, tracks various body functions during sleep (like heart rate, breathing, and brain activity) to diagnose sleep disorders like sleep apnea.

Read more: Sleep Apnea Test at Home

Sleep Study


  1. Lifestyle Changes: Your doctor may recommend lifestyle adjustments such as weight loss (if applicable), avoiding alcohol or sedatives before bedtime, changing sleep positions, or managing nasal congestion caused by allergies or other conditions.

  2. Oral Appliances: These devices, like mouthguards or mandibular advancement devices, are worn during sleep to reposition the jaw or tongue, helping to keep the airway open and reduce snoring.

  3. Surgical Interventions: In certain cases, surgical procedures may be considered to address anatomical issues contributing to snoring. These surgeries might involve removing or reducing tissues in the throat, correcting nasal septum deviations, or stiffening the soft palate.

  4. CPAP Therapy: Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) involves using a machine that delivers a steady stream of air through a mask worn over the nose or mouth during sleep. It’s primarily used for treating sleep apnea but can also reduce snoring by maintaining an open airway.

Learn more: Best Anti-Snoring Devices

CPAP Therapy

Snoring Complications

Snoring may seem like a nighttime noise, but when paired with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), it can bring complications, such as:

  1. Daytime Sleepiness: Imagine feeling like you’re dragging through the day because your sleep was constantly interrupted by snoring-related issues. Not a fun way to tackle the day.

  2. Frequent Frustration or Anger: The lack of quality sleep can crank up the irritability meter. Your fuse might get a little shorter than usual, and frustration can become a frequent visitor.

  3. Difficulty Concentrating: Sleep and concentration go hand in hand. When snoring disrupts your sleep, focusing on tasks can feel like trying to catch a slippery fish – challenging!

  4. Risk of High Blood Pressure, Heart Issues, and Stroke: Snoring, especially when linked to OSA, can be a red flag for some serious health concerns, including high blood pressure, heart problems, and an increased risk of stroke.

  5. Behavior Problems in Kids: It’s not just adults who bear the brunt of snoring troubles. In children with OSA, there’s a higher likelihood of behavior problems, like aggression or learning difficulties.

  6. Risk of Motor Vehicle Accidents: Lack of quality sleep can turn your daily commute into a risky adventure. The drowsiness from snoring-related sleep disruptions might increase the chances of accidents while driving.

Need professional help to diagnose and address your sleep problems? Schedule an online consultation with sleep specialist Dr. John Williams.

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