What causes snoring?The causes of snoring vary widely. The superficial structures in the throat are usually involved, but snoring, especially loud snoring, may be a sign of underlying problems such as illnesses that affects the respiratory system or airways. The parts commonly involved in snoring are the uvula and the soft palate. The soft palate is the structure between the oral cavity and the voice box that hangs like a curtain to from the roof of the mouth while the uvula is the small cone-shaped structure suspended in the mouth from the middle of the back edge of the soft palate.
The various causes of snoring are as follows:
- Structural Abnormalities – Generally, nasal blockages due to illnesses such as sinusitis and abnormalities in various throat tissues may lead to snoring. This happens because the tonsils often do not return to their normal size following recovery. An example of this is deviated nasal septum. Other structures that may be involved are the palate and/or uvula. During relaxed breathing, say, when a person is asleep, an elongated palate or uvula causes blockage to the opening from the nose into the throat narrowing the passage and acts like a valve that opens with each breath. All of these may result in snoring.
- Weight gain – Obesity is associated with narrowing of the airways and thus leads to snoring. The extra pounds gained cause the throat tissues to enlarge and become bulky. Some children have large tonsils that also add bulk to the throat tissues. The tissues in the back of the throat known as adenoids, the soft palate and the tonsils are just some of these structures. Due to airway obstruction, patients with these anatomical abnormalities breathe through their mouth causing greater vibration of the throat tissues, which leads to snoring.
- Poor muscle tone or weakness of the throat tissues – The falling backwards of the tongue into the throat causes the throat to collapse more easily, thus leading to snoring. This is but natural when the muscles are relaxed; however, the snoring becomes more serious when a person consumes muscle relaxing agents such as alcohol and drugs. This may also result from aging and lack of fitness.
- Wrong position of the jaw – The tongue is attached to the inner part of the jawbone in front. If it slips too backward or if its back enlarges, it can create tension within the mouth. On the other hand, during chewing and swallowing, muscles of the palate elevate closing off the nose and sinuses from the throat and mouth. The soft palate moves upward with opening of the jaw and downward with jaw closure. However, if these muscles are too tense due to inflammation, the jaw is not able to move efficiently to facilitate mastication. In both instances, the jaw may be mispositioned and these conditions may cause snoring.
- Respiratory Injury – Injury to the nasal structures, such as the nasal bone can cause snoring concerns. This may result from blunt trauma experienced after birth or during motor vehicle accidents, such as fractures/broken nose.
- Sleep apnea – Snoring, often loud snoring, may be a symptom of this more serious sleep disorder. Sleep apnea causes breathing to cease or to become shallow for periods of more than 10 seconds while one is asleep. This happens 20 or more times in an hour. The lungs not getting enough oxygen supply causes airflow interruption and greater tissue vibration, which leads to louder snoring. The more a person snores, the more he gets drowsy easily during the day. This poses danger as it may cause accidents and affects day to day activities.