What is snoring?

Snoring is noisy breathing during sleep. It can happen when you are breathing in or breathing out. Forty per cent of all adults snore, but it is most common in men, especially older, middle-aged and obese men.

What causes snoring?

Snoring occurs when air cannot flow smoothly through your air passages. It can also occur when there are structures in your air passages that vibrate while you breathe. There may be several causes:

  • Sleeping on your back — this position allows your tongue to fall backward into your throat and partially block your throat, making a smaller passage for air. As air passes over your tongue, it may vibrate and make noise.
  • Buckteeth, a very small lower jaw or a very long soft palate (the soft part of the back of the roof of the mouth) can contribute to the problem.
  • Blockage in the nose — this can be caused by colds, sinus infections or following an injury that changed the shape of your nose or nasal passages. Enlarged adenoids (tonsil-like tissue at the back of your nose where the nose joins the upper throat) can also cause snoring by blocking the airway and vibrating while you breathe.
  • Weight gain — the air passages become smaller due to the accumulation of fat under the tissue lining the airway and a heavier chest increases the pressure on the airways.
  • Medication or alcohol — alcohol, sleeping pills, antihistamines, and pain medication cause excessive relaxation and can also cause snoring.
  • Sleep apnoea — this means short spells when breathing stops while you are asleep. Apnoea can occur many times during the night. The symptoms include snoring, fatigue, and a tendency to fall asleep during the day. There can also be complications, such as heart rhythm problems, so you should consult your doctor if you suspect that you may have sleep apnoea.

What can I do?

  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Take medication to unclog your nasal passages.
  • Sleep on your side or your stomach.
  • Do not take sleeping pills, sedatives or alcohol before going to bed.
  • Raise the head of the bed or mattress so that it is higher than the foot of the bed. Don’t use more pillows, as these can cause more breathing problems.
  • Ask your doctor for advice.

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