What causes snoring?
Snoring is the sound made by air passing through irregularities and narrowings in the throat and windpipe. Snoring can occur when someone breathes in or breathes out. Snoring in itself is not dangerous, but it can be the first stage in the development of apnea. Weight gain, sedation or anything else that further constricts the upper airway could turn a chronic snorer into a sleep apnea patient. Also, there are some data to suggest that chronic and severe snoring may lead to high
blood pressure and cardiac changes. Doctors in Bologna, Italy have reported that chronic snorers tend to have a greater incidence of high blood pressure. More recently, doctors in Helsinki, Finland also found the same strong relationship between snoring and high blood pressure.
Snoring is often related to physical obstructive breathing during sleep. This physical obstruction occurs when the muscles of the palate, the uvula, and sometimes the tonsils relax during deep sleep, and act as vibrating noise-makers when the air of breathing moves across them. Excessive bulkiness of tissue in the back of the throat as it narrows into the airways can also contribute to snoring, as can a long palate and/or uvula.
Large tonsils and adenoids can cause snoring in children. Overweight persons also have bulky tissues in their neck. Cysts or tumors could be present, but these are rare. When muscles are too relaxed, either from alcohol or drugs that cause sleepiness, the tongue falls backwards into the airway or the throat muscles draw in from the sides into the airway. This can also happen during deep sleep. Excessive length of the soft palate and uvula may dangle into the person's airway and act as a flutter valve during relaxed breathing and contribute to the noise of snoring.
When a person has a stuffy or blocked-up nose he must blow hard to inhale air through it. This creates an exaggerated vacuum in his throat; the collapsible part of the airway then pulls together with the floppy tissues of the throat. Snoring then occurs in persons who would not snore if they could breathe properly through their nose. This explains why some people snore during hay fever season or when they have a cold or sinus infection. Deformities of the nose or nasal septum may also cause such an obstruction. Deviated septum is a common term for the deformity of the wall inside the nose that separates one nostril from the other.
Most cases of snoring are due to the nightly accumulation of secretions in the back of the throat and the associated tissue swelling. These factors produce a partial airflow obstruction and narrowed airway, allowing vibration of the soft tissues in the throat.