Snoring is a problem that affects 45% of normal adults at least occasionally, and 25% are habitual snorers. Problem snoring is more frequent in males and overweight persons, and usually worsens with age.
Snoring occurs when there is an obstruction to the free flow of air through the passages at the back of the mouth and nose. This area is the collapsible part of the airway where the tongue and upper throat meet the soft palate and uvula. Snoring occurs when these structures strike each other and vibrate during breathing. Snoring is not just a social nuisance; there’s more to be concerned about than disturbing someone’s sleep.
People who snore may suffer from:
- Poor muscle tone in the tongue and throat. When muscles are too relaxed, 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 bulkiness of throat tissue. Children with large tonsils and adenoids often snore. Overweight people have bulky neck tissue, too. Cysts or tumors can also cause bulk, but are rare.
- Long soft palate and/or uvula. A long palate narrows the opening from the nose into the throat. As it dangles, it acts as a noisy flutter valve during relaxed breathing. A long uvula makes matters worse.
- Obstructed nasal airways. A stuffy or blocked nose requires extra effort to pull air through it. This creates an exaggerated vacuum in the throat, pulling together the floppy tissues of the throat and snoring results. Snoring often occurs only during hay fever season or with a cold or sinus infection.