Snoring affects millions of people of all ages, both male and female. However, snoring is more common among males and people who are overweight, and it typically gets worse with age. Occasional snoring is usually not a problem, but habitual snoring may be a sign of sleep apnea.

What Causes Snoring?

Snoring is caused by the vibrations of your soft and/or hard tissue palates; these vibrations occur because of increasingly narrow air passages. When air passes through these passages, a "flapping" sound occurs because the tissue is soft in nature. Surgery (to alleviate the snoring) is not always successful, however, because the sound may not originate from the soft palate; the snoring sometimes originates from tissues in the upper airway.

Snoring occurs due to:

  • Poor muscle tone of the tongue or throat
  • Obstructed nasal passages because of allergies, a sinus infection or a deviated septum
  • Bulky throat tissue, specifically children with large adenoids and tonsils
  • A soft palate and/or uvula that is too long

Health Risks of Snoring

Snoring not only disrupts your sleep pattern, it also keeps you from getting a good night's rest. Loud snoring may also be a sign of a serious sleep disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). With OSA, breathing repeatedly stops and starts due to blocked air passages. Untreated OSA can increase your risk of strokes, heart attacks, and other health problems.

Frequent snorers should always be evaluated by a medical professional to ensure they're not experiencing sleep apnea.