Last Updated: August 26, 2021

What Causes Snoring and How to Stop It

Snoring is a condition that occurs when muscles behind the tongue relax and narrow the airway during sleep. As air passes through, these soft tissues in the throat vibrate, resulting in the familiar snoring sound. Snoring is most common among older adults, although it affects people of all ages. Although snoring may appear be harmless to the sleeper, it is often a nuisance to those who are awake by preventing them from falling asleep. Common Causes for Snoring

Snoring is commonly caused by a narrowed airway, which can be influenced by a variety of factors. Causes of snoring may include:

  • Genetic Factors. For some people, the anatomy of one’s nose, head, or neck may predispose them to snoring.
  • Being Overweight. Excess fatty tissue around the neck and throat may sag and narrow the airway during sleep.
  • Alcohol and Medications. Medications and other sedatives around bedtime can relax loose muscles in the throat even further leading to snoring and an increased likelihood of a blocked airway.
  • Allergies and Nasal Congestion. Inflammation in the nose encourages mouth breathing, which is a leading cause for snoring.
  • Mouth Breathing. When the mouth is open the tongue is more likely to fall to the back of the mouth.

Common Facts About Snoring

  • Snoring affects approximately 20% of the general population1
  • Approximately 24% of men and 14% of women snore.1
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness and daytime fatigue were related to habitual snoring.2
  • Obesity is a strong correlation for snoring.2
  • 3/4 of snorers are unaware that they snore.3
  • Alcohol consumption may aggravate or intensify snoring.3
  • Hypertension is highly corrected with snoring, particularly in men.4

How to Reduce Snoring

There are several lifestyle changes that can be made to reduce the severity of snoring. Common lifestyle changes include:

Change sleep position. Sleeping on the back encourages a narrowing of the airway and increases the severity of snoring. Alternatively, sleeping on one’s side prevents the tongue from falling back in the throat. Lose weight. Removing excess fatty tissue in the throat may reduce the risk of a narrowed airway. Avoid alcohol. Consuming less alcohol before going to sleep prevents the muscles from relaxing. In some cases, however, these changes are insufficient and alternative remedies may be required. These solutions range from nasal strips to surgery.


  1. Pevernagie, Dirk, Ronald M. Aarts, and Micheline De Meyer. “The acoustics of snoring.” Sleep medicine reviews 14.2 (2010): 131-144.
  2. Peppard, Paul E., et al. “Increased prevalence of sleep-disordered breathing in adults.” American journal of epidemiology 177.9 (2013): 1006-1014.
  3. Hoffstein, Victor. “Snoring.” CHEST Journal 109.1 (1996): 201-222.
  4. Koskenvuo, Markku, et al. “Snoring as a risk factor for hypertension and angina pectoris.” The Lancet 325.8434 (1985): 893-896.