Why Do People Snore?

Snoring - why do people snore? Everybody does it. Most people don't do it often or regularly, but the incidence and prevalence increases with age. Estimates vary somewhat with geography, but in the "developed world", figure about 1/3 of the adult population over age 30 snores regularly. That's a conservative figure.

Men snore twice as much; we have smaller airways, so there's more going on in a smaller space, and apparently, it closes easier, or at least tissues around the airway are more easily set into motion by the passing air. The difference persists until the age when women hit menopause, and lose the protective/strengthening effects of progesterone, and then both sexes snore. The older we get, the more we snore (on average) until we reach our seventies, and then there's a decline in snoring - most likely because severe snorers die younger (or are killed off by their sleep-deprived mates).

This section of MHT deals with snoring - its causes (there are many), and various ways to treat it.

Obviously (or it should be obvious) the sooner you deal with snoring, the better.

Why should I care? I don't hear it.

If you asked that question and :

a) you don't live/sleep alone

b) your partner is not deaf

then, perhaps you are an a**hole. Didn't you read the Terms and Conditions, where you agreed that a**holes aren't encouraged here?

Also, is it a gambling thing? You don't care about the health aspects, you just want to see how long your partner will put up with your snoring until s/he kills you in your sleep?

I'm not that a**hole above and I want to know: Why should I care?

Oh, well then, of course... sorry. You want to know because aside from the grief that it causes to people around you, snoring is associated with a bunch of health problems. Some of them, it causes, some of them it just makes worse, and some of them are causes of snoring.

Whether it's a cause or a symptom, don't you want to know what's wrong and how to fix whatever-it-is before it gets worse?

Everything is "associated with" everything - that doesn't say much

Yeah, we know, it sounds namby-pamby, like something an earnest-but-colorless bureaucrat would say: "... is associated with..." Sheesh!

Sorry. Medical science isn't exact science. Not-quite-medical practical advice (that'd be this website) is an even less-exact science. Hell, LIFE is not an exact science. You, and we, are learning to deal with that, are sharing what we learn, and are doing what we can to nudge the odds in our favor. Looked at that way, snoring is a big deal. It affects quality of life and length of life.

So you need to know, why do people snore, and why do you snore?

I should panic because I'm a noisy sleeper?

Of course not. But if you've been a noisy sleeper for a number of years, and it's getting worse, then some concern - sub-panic, but deep concern - is in order.

I'm not sure if I snore

If you sleep in the same room with somebody who is not a bad snorer, then that person can tell you. Really.

Well, you have to be careful here. Many people were raised in houses with truly awful snorers, and so they might tell you "oh, you don't really snore" because they are comparing against a remembered parent or relative who literally shook the windows and light-fixtures with their snoring. They might consider your every-night rasping drone to be blissful near-silence, by comparison. So ask your question probingly. Define what you - and they - mean by "snoring".

By the way, if that's the case, then we can pretty-much guarantee that the offending relative, with the fog-horn snoring problem, died young or spent their final decade in a hospital bed, with much of their brain destroyed by stroke.

Why do people snore? Maybe it's just spite. :-)

What does MHT mean by "snoring"?

We at MHT (Men's Health Tips website) mean any noise that you make by breathing, while sleeping. Really. We've slept with people who are so quiet that, in a dark, quiet room, we had to check if they were still breathing. They were. So any noise that you make through your respiratory tract while sleeping is indication that something's not right.

So if I sleep alone?

If you live alone, and therefore don't have anyone to ask about your night-time sonorousness (or lack of), it can be difficult to tell. It's less difficult if you have a fairly advanced case, because the damage leaves traces. For example, if your snoring is accompanied by sleep apnea (or apnoea for you Brits) you might often awaken with a headache. That's partly from oxygen deprivation, but... if you can't get air into your lungs, that means you also can't get stale air out of your lungs. Excessive build-up of carbon dioxide causes headache.

For that matter, a frequently-repeated desperate struggle to suck life-giving air into your lungs involves a lot of muscle-strain and muscle-clenching, both of which can incite a tension headache.

If you are a loud snorer, you might often awaken with a sore throat.

If you often awaken with a dry, gummy mouth, it's likely that you sleep with your mouth open. Not only does that attract flies (possibly explaining some of that taste in your mouth...) but it also strongly suggests that you are a snorer. Normally, you would breathe through your nose unless the nose got blocked or your entire airway got blocked - in which case you automatically open your mouth to try to get air in faster.

Listen Bucko, I've been reading for a while - when do you get to the point??

Er... here. Why do people snore? The basic reason is that loose bits in your throat are flapping rapidly in the breeze that is your breathing.

I'm breathing right now...

Yes, but your throat has some muscle tone. If you are reading this, there's a strong chance that you are awake. So the bits can't flap unless you consciously force them to... say, by making a pretend snore.

Which bits are we talking about?

The uvula, that fleshy part that hangs down at the back of your mouth, your tonsils and adenoids if you still have 'em, and just the general fleshy lining of your upper breathing tube right around where incoming stuff decides whether it's going down your food pipe or your windpipe.

Fine, but how's that help me?

Well, the problem - why do people snore - only happens when you go to sleep and reach a deep enough stage of sleep that your whole body loses muscle tone. That includes the muscles in your neck, throat, mouth, tongue. Sleep scientists believe that we evolved that loss of muscle tone to keep us safely inactive in sleep while our brains worked out / 'acted out' all sorts of things in our dreams. Basically we're paralyzed so we don't hurt ourselves and others while we're fighting a bear or climbing a mountain in our sleep.

That total switch-off of the muscles is generally useful, but becomes a problem when it allows our airway to close. The result is snoring, again because the loose fleshy bits vibrate as the air is pulled past, or it's apnea when the loose bits completely close off the air-hole.


And there are several things that we do that can make snoring or apnea more likely. If we understand how those work - why do people snore - then we can do something useful about the ones that are most likely affecting us.

Here we go:

- excess body fat is probably the number one cause of snoring and apnea

- unless it's smoking - that's another biggy

- dairy in the diet contributes greatly to some people's snoring

- being overtired can make you snore

- alcohol can increase your snoring

- allergies (to things you eat or to things you breathe) can contribute to snoring

If this page wasn't where you wanted to be, then from this 'why do people snore' page, go back to the home page.

Or, return to the snoring section intro page page where we have a table of links to all the other snoring-related pages in this section of MHT.

PLEASE be aware that by using this site you agree to our Terms and Conditions.
These terms and conditions would put a hyperactive child on caffeine to sleep.
Click Terms and Conditions and we'll all know for sure just why you are snoring.