Snoring Symptoms and Signs
Snoring is a sound resulting from turbulent airflow that causes the tissues of the nose and throat to vibrate during sleep. The turbulent air flow is related to a narrowing at some point in the nose, mouth, or throat. Different people who snore may have various reasons for the narrowing of the air spaces leading to snoring.
Quick GuideSleep Disorders: Insomnia, Sleep Apnea, and More
- Snoring is caused by vibrating tissues within the airways of the nose and
- The vibrations that cause snoring are caused by turbulent airflow through
- Snoring is affected by the stage of sleep, sleeping position, and the use
of medications and alcohol.
- Snoring may be a problem for family members and sleeping partners of the
- Snoring also may be a sign of an underlying medical problem.
- Treatments for snoring are both nonsurgical and surgical.
What is snoring?
Snoring, like all other sounds, is caused by vibrations that cause particles
in the air to form sound waves. For example, when we speak, our vocal cords
vibrate to form our voice. When our stomach growls (borborygmus), our stomach
and intestines vibrate as air and food move through them.
While we are asleep, turbulent airflow can cause the tissues of the palate
(roof of the mouth) and
throat to vibrate, giving rise to snoring. Essentially, snoring is a sound
resulting from turbulent airflow that causes tissues to vibrate during
How common is snoring?
Any person can snore. Frequently, people who do not regularly snore will report snoring after a viral illness, after drinking alcohol, or when taking some medications.
People who snore can have any body type. We frequently think of a large man with a thick neck as a snorer. However, a thin woman with a small neck can snore just as loudly. In general, as people get older and as they gain weight, snoring will worsen.
What causes snoring?
While we are breathing, air flows in and out in a steady stream between our nose or mouth and our lungs. There are relatively few sounds when we are sitting and breathing quietly. When we exercise, the air moves more quickly and produces some sounds as we breathe. This happens because air is moving in and out of the nose and mouth more quickly and this results in more turbulence to the airflow and some vibration of the tissues in the nose and mouth.
When we are asleep, the area at the back of the throat sometimes narrows as the muscles relax, and even close off temporarily. The same amount of air passing through this smaller opening more rapidly can cause the tissues surrounding the opening to vibrate, which in turn can cause the sounds of snoring. Different people who snore have different reasons for the narrowing. The narrowing can be in the nose, mouth, or throat. Palatal snoring is often worse when an individual breathes through his or her mouth or has nasal obstruction.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/4/2016