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Updated on January 23, 2017

The Mechanism of Snoring

Everyone has the capacity to snore. It generally happens when you sleep with your mouth open but some people snore with their mouths closed. The reason people snore is because of some obstruction in the airways. This means that the obstruction causes the airflow to make parts of the throat, nose or mouth to vibrate and this is what produces the noise known as snoring.

Nostrils, septum
Nostrils, septum | Source

Blocked nose related snoring

  • If your nose is crooked, you may have what is termed a deviated septum. This could be following an injury or you could have been born with it. The septum is a thin piece of cartilage which divides the nose into two passageways (nostrils). If the septum is crooked enough to cause an obstruction it will vibrate when you breathe; thus causing the sound known as snoring.
  • You may have polyps in the nasal passages. These are soft tissue swellings which can obstruct the nostril or nostrils and cause snoring.
  • In the nose there are three bony protrusions covered with mucous membranes on either side. These are called turbinates and they warm and filter the air so that it is ready to be absorbed by the lungs. If you have a cold or allergy, the blood vessels in the turbinates can swell which will cause snoring.
  • If the nose is blocked by an obstruction then air must be brought in via the mouth. In the mouth is the velum; which is more commonly known as the soft palate. This piece of muscle tissue hangs down from the back of the roof of the mouth and a piece of soft tissue is attached to it called the uvula. Both of these tissues are thought to vibrate when mouth breathing takes place.

Oral/Nasal cavity
Oral/Nasal cavity | Source
Swollen Tonsils
Swollen Tonsils | Source

Mouth related snoring

If the velum mentioned earlier is floppy then it will vibrate more easily and snoring could occur even with a closed mouth.

The pharynx (behind the nose and mouth cavity) can become swollen which will cause snoring with the mouth closed or open

There could be a problem with your tongue if you snore with your mouth closed. It could be so large at the back that it takes up space in the throat and causes snoring.

Swollen tonsils are another cause of snoring with a closed mouth. Usually this resolves when the infection dies down but occasionally the swelling persists; as does the snoring.

Most of the causes of mouth related snoring above can occur with the mouth either open or closed

Other causes of snoring

  • Relaxed throat muscles often occur after drinking alcohol or in REM sleep. As you age your muscle tone decreases and snoring can become more of a problem.
  • Back sleepers often snore because their tongue drops backwards and obstructs the throat.
  • Obesity means a larger neck and fat deposits around the throat or a double chin. These can cause or worsen existing snoring.
  • Even minor jaw deformities can cause mouth or throat tissues to vibrate during sleep and make the snoring sound.

What are the consequences of snoring?

Most people who snore are completely unaware that they do it until they meet a sleeping partner and it is pointed out to them with a deft kick or two or a prod in the back. Normal snoring is completely harmless to the sleeper but divorces can occur because of the night-time serenades.


Are there solutions?

Top 10

  1. Snoreeze Lozenges

  2. Snoreeze Oral Strips

  3. Snore Calm Herbal Spray

  4. Nozovent nasal dilator

  5. Chin up Strip

  6. Breathe Right Nasal Strips

  7. Snorewizard mouthguard

  8. Laser Surgery

  9. Anatomical Pillows

  10. Stop Snoring Advance digital device

A more serious type of snoring

Sleep Apnoea and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea are disorders where the sufferer stops breathing for periods of more than 10 seconds and wakes frequently during the night as the brain sends a message to say they are not breathing. The awakening is heralded by a loud snore or gasp. This can happen as often as several hundred times a night in very severe cases. The sufferer will probably have no recall of having woken at all but will likely feel tired and sluggish the next day. Sleep Apnoea of the obstructive kind can have serious consequences, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Type II Diabetes
  • Premature death
  • Stroke
  • Hypertension
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Angina
  • Low libido
  • Obesity
  • Acid reflux

If you think you may be suffering from Sleep Apnoea or Obstructive Sleep Apnoea consult your doctor who may wish to send you to a sleep lab so that you can be observed sleeping.

CPAP machine
CPAP machine | Source

Is Treatment available?

  • There are various lifestyle changes that can be undertaken such as losing weight if you are obese, cutting down on alcohol and stopping smoking.
  • A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Machine - CPAP may be prescribed. This is a machine which moves compressed air into the nose continuously and prevents your airways closing.
  • A mandibular advancement device which is worn over your teeth during sleep. It forces your tongue and jaw forward so they don’t obstruct the back of the throat.
  • There are also a number of surgical options to correct Obstructive Sleep Apnoea although these are rarely recommended as CPAP is very effective.

© Susan Bailey 2013 All Rights Reserved


What Kind of Snorer Are You?

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    • profile image

      becario 3 years ago

      @Sue! Really good story!

      @Jeannie, did your boyfriend have any luck yet? Mine recently started using an anti snoring mouthpiece by Duo Confort. And it looks like it's going in the right direction!

    • Sue Bailey profile image

      Susan Bailey 4 years ago from South Yorkshire, UK

      Good luck Jeannie - or you could get earplugs! ;-)

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie InABottle 4 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      My boyfriend is a big snorer. Thanks for this information. The nasal strips he tried did not help, but it looks like he has other options. I am going to get him to try other products. :-)

    • Sue Bailey profile image

      Susan Bailey 4 years ago from South Yorkshire, UK

      Poshcoffeeco have you any idea why it swells? Could it be an allergy to something you're either eating or drinking?

      My brother's like that torrilynn. Terrible isn't it.

      Thanks to both of you.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 4 years ago


      thanks for the valuable information

      I never liked how my uncle snored because it would be

      extremely loud, so loud that I wouldn't be able to watch tv

      thanks again and Voted up

    • poshcoffeeco profile image

      Steve Mitchell 4 years ago from Cambridgeshire

      Hi Sue,

      Thanks for this interesting article. My Uvula regularly swells and flaps around at the back of my throat sometimes causing a gagging reflex. After a few days it goes back to normal. Hot drinks seem to help. I wonder if this is responsible for my snoring ?

      Sharing this.

    • Sue Bailey profile image

      Susan Bailey 4 years ago from South Yorkshire, UK

      Thanks Nell and Point2make. Glad you found it useful

    • point2make profile image

      point2make 4 years ago

      Wow...what a great informative hub. Thanks for all the info. I am a snorer and you have given me some information that I was unaware of. At least now I have some ideas that might help me with my snoring issue. Voted this hub up.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi Sue, I remember my brother had polyps they made him snore badly, he went into hospital and had them removed, great info and so helpful too, voted up and shared! nell