Why Do I Always Snore at Night? Causes of Snoring Explained
According to the British Snoring Association, there are approximately 15 million snorers in the UK, making it an extremely common sleeping condition.i Despite its widespread nature, snoring is nonetheless challenging to live with. It often leads to un-refreshing and fragmented sleep, which results in depleted energy levels, reduced productivity, and even low mood. Besides this, it can take a toll on relationships, too.
It’s important to recognise and treat the root cause of snoring before it causes any potential health problems from the resulting sleep deficit. While there isn’t a ‘cure’ for snoring, understanding some of the causes will better equip you to explore treatment options and manage your snoring.
What is snoring?
Caused by turbulence inside the airway during inhalation, snoring is defined by vibrations of the tissues in the mouth, nose, throat, and soft palate.ii When you fall asleep, it’s very normal for the muscles of your neck relax; your throat becomes narrow and more relaxed, and your tongue falls backwards. However, occasionally the muscles of your neck relax too much, which narrows your airway. As air flows past these relaxed tissues, the walls of your throat start to vibrate — these vibrations produce the characteristic sound of snoring. The narrower your airway becomes, the more intense the vibration and louder you will snore. Snoring can happen at any stage of the sleep cycle.
A partial or total blockage of your airway can lead to long interruptions of your breathing during sleep. When this happens, your body isn’t receiving an adequate supply of oxygen needed to perform its essential biological functions. As a result, the brain prompts the body to wake up to obtain the oxygen it requires, causing you to rouse during the night without realising it. This is why after a night of snoring you awake feeling unrested and groggy — you didn’t experience a full seven to nine hours of unbroken, quality sleep.
What causes snoring?
From middle age and beyond, the muscle tone of your throat decreases, and your throat narrows in size. Although you can’t fight the natural ageing process, healthy lifestyle changes and good sleep hygiene can help prevent snoring.
Alcohol and sedatives
Alcohol, as well as sleep aids and cold medicines, relax the muscles in your throat. So, when you’re inebriated, you will likely experience blockages in the air passages and snore as a result. To manage your snoring, make a conscious effort to reduce your alcohol consumption before bed.
Like alcohol, cigarette smoke — even second-hand — relaxes the throat and increases breathing volume. Simply put, the more you smoke, the more extreme your snoring will be. One of the best things you can do for your sleep hygiene — as well as many other areas of health — is to give this habit up.
If you’re overweight or out of shape, you’ll probably have more fatty tissue at the back of your throat, which can narrow the airway and trigger snoring. Sometimes, losing weight and exercising can be all it takes to manage snoring.
Sleeping on your back can often predispose you to snore. This is because your airway is more vulnerable to collapsing thanks to gravity shifting the tissues in your throat and obstructing adequate airflow. Changing your sleeping position to rest on your side may be just what you need to sleep better and breathe properly.
Your nasal passageways
A crooked partition between your nostrils may contribute to snoring because the misalignment of your nasal wall can restrict airflow. It’s possible you may need surgery to correct this problem, so it’s well worth discussing options with your doctor.
Chronic seasonal nasal congestion can make snoring much more likely, too. Do whatever you can to manage your underlying allergies and congestion to clear your nose. Beyond washing your sheets and hovering regularly, you may also want to invest in an air filter.
The anatomy of your mouth
Some people naturally have a narrower airway due to a low, thick, soft palate; large adenoids (glands located at the top of the mouth) or tonsils; or an elongated uvula (the triangular piece of tissue hanging from the soft palate). While you have no control over your anatomy, you can control snoring with the correct bedroom routine, lifestyle changes, and even over-the-counter remedies.
If you value your sleep hygiene, overall health, and relationships, make it your priority to get to the bottom of your snoring. Once you understand the causes behind it, you can determine the right tools to improve your sleep quality. To learn how best to manage your snoring, head over to our article on simple snoring solutions for a restful night’s sleep.
Want to discover more guidance on sleeping soundly? Feel free to explore the rest of our sleep hub.
British Snoring & Sleep Apnoea Association. (2019). Available online: https://britishsnoring.co.uk/media.php
NHS.UK. (2019). Snoring. Available online: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/snoring
Olivia Salter has always been an avid health nut. After graduating from the University of Bristol, she began working for a nutritional consultancy where she discovered her passion for all things wellness-related. There, she executed much of the company’s content marketing strategy and found her niche in health writing, publishing articles in Women’s Health, Mind Body Green, Thrive and Psychologies.