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Why Do People Snore? - Causes & Prevention

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
Do you snore? If not, perhaps someone you live with doesn't give you an ounce of sleep because they do! Find out what causes snoring and some of the ways people can prevent this.

Snoring

Do you sleep next to someone who keeps you awake all night? Perhaps they talk in their sleep. Maybe they kick at you while they dream. Or, more likely, they snore so loud that the neighbors call the cops. That's probably an exaggeration, but why do people snore? And can it be prevented? You'll find out shortly.

Why Do People Snore?

Snoring is a sound that people make as tissues in the upper airways, such as the soft palate, vibrate. This vibration occurs as a result of turbulent airflow passing through narrowed upper airways.

The structures of and near the upper airways, including the soft palate, tonsils, uvula, and tongue may all be involved in snoring.
Mouth

Confused by this? Well, you can recreate a similar scenario on your own if you have a balloon. Take a balloon. Next, inflate it with some air. Now carefully place your fingers around the base of the tip of the balloon, where the tip meets the balloon proper, so that as much as possible of the tip of the balloon hangs loosely.

If you loosen up on where you're holding just a tiny bit, you'll notice a high pitched tooting sound. But if you loosen up just a tiny bit more, you'll notice that the loose end of the tip will begin to vibrate and make an almost snore-like sound. That's because air flows turbulently through the narrowed tip and vibrates the soft (tissue) tip of the balloon as it does so. This is similar to what happens in our narrowed upper airways as air flows turbulently through them and causes the soft structures of the upper airways to vibrate as a result.

There are many conditions that can lead to this, including:

  • Obesity, which adds pressure on the airways.
  • Drugs, such as alcohol, sedatives, and some illicit substances that cause the structures of the upper airways to become too lax.
  • Enlarged tonsils or a large uvula, a piece of tissue at the back of the throat. If you open up your mouth in front of the mirror and say ''Aaaaah'', you'll see the pendulous uvula hanging down from the top portion of the back of your throat. Enlarged structures like these are more likely to vibrate.
  • Nasal congestion, which plugs up the upper airways and thus changes the airflow dynamics.
  • Growths in the upper airways, like cysts and tumors, which change the dynamics of the airflow or the function of the structures of the upper airways.
  • Structural problems related to the nose, like a deviated septum. The septum is the structure that separates your nose into left and right halves. So if you have a broken nose from boxing that looks askew, this may be a cause of snoring.

Prevention Of Snoring

The prevention of snoring all depends on identifying the underlying cause, of course, as there is no single solution for every problem. Generally speaking, however, people who have a history of snoring that isn't caused by some structural problem necessitating surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy (e.g. as per cancer), may benefit from:

  • Avoiding alcohol or any sleeping pills before going to bed
  • Keeping the house clean and free of any allergens that may cause airway congestion
  • Using a decongestant prior to going to bed if they are sick with the cold or have allergies
  • Sleeping on the side instead of their back
  • Elevating their head when they sleep
  • Losing weight, if applicable
  • Using nasal strips that help expand the nasal passageways

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