Causes of Snoring and Treatment for Sleep Apnea

Reviewed by: | Author: Manoja Kalakanti

All of us want a night of restful sleep to rejuvenate ourselves for the coming day. A disturbed sleep at night spoils the next day’s energy to do anything creative as well as causes daytime drowsiness, fatigue, irritability, increases health problems, propagates lack of focus and decreases libido. Libido is defined as a person’s desire for sexual activity. Snoring is one of the most common yet irritating problems that can affect the quality of your sleep and that of your family members and roommates. In some cases, snoring can also create major relationship problems.


Snoring is defined as a loud and harsh breathing sound that occurs during the night. It happens when the flow of air from the nose to our lungs makes the tissues of the airway vibrate. During our sleep, turbulent airflow causes the tissues of the palate and throat to vibrate which gives rise to snoring. The palate is the roof of the mouth in humans and other mammals which separates the oral cavity from the nasal cavity. Therefore snoring is a sound generating from turbulent airflow that causes tissues to vibrate during sleep at night. It has been proven that 45% of men and 30% of women snore on a regular basis and people who snore can have any body type. A thin woman with a small neck can snore as loudly as a large man with a thick neck.

Common Causes of Snoring

When we breathe while sleeping, air enters the mouth or nose by passing across the soft palate on its way to the lungs. The soft palate is the tissue constituting the back of the roof of the mouth in mammals. The five muscles of the soft palate play important roles in swallowing and breathing. The muscles are Tensor veli palatini, Palatoglossus, palatopharyngeus, levator veli palatini, musculus uvulae. Palatoglossus and palatopharyngeus play important roles in breathing.

Causes of Snoring

Palatoglossus arises from the anterior surface of the soft palate and palatopharyngeus is a small muscle in the roof of the mouth. It is a long, fleshy fasciculus, narrower in the middle than at either end forming with the mucous membrane covering its surface, the palatopharyngeal arch. The tongue and the upper throat of the mouth meet the soft palate and uvula at the back of the mouth. The uvula is the small finger-shaped piece of tissue that hangs down from the soft palate in the back of the throat and can be seen when a person opens his or her mouth widely.

Mouth Anatomy

The presence of a low, thick soft palate can narrow our airway. The soft palate is the tissue constituting the back of the roof of the mouth in mammals. When we breathe during sleep air enters the mouth or nose by passing across the soft palate on its way to the lungs. The soft palate can filter the sound, sending it out through the nose or the mouth, or both together. It plays an important role in resonating quality. A speech made with the middle part of the tongue touching the soft palate is known as velar consonant.

Mouth anatomy

A velar consonant is a consonant which is pronounced with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, also known as the velum that is the back part of the roof of the mouth. Overweight people have extra tissues in the back of their throat that can narrow their airways. Airflow can be obstructed when the triangular piece of tissue connected with the soft palate is detached, and vibration increases during this detachment process.

Nasal Problems

During sleep, the body naturally tries to breathe through the nose but nasal congestion forces mouth breathing during sleep. Nasal congestion is also known as stuffy nose, which can also be a symptom of another health problem such as a sinus infection, but the common cold can also cause it. It creates a blockage in the nasal passage usually due to membranes lining the nose becoming swollen from inflamed blood vessels. It generates greater negative force which acts behind the uvula and soft palate. This negative pressure enhances the vibration of these “noise makers” during sleep, and this sound is known as snoring.

Nasal problems


A crooked partition between our nostrils (deviated nasal septum) is one of the main reasons of snoring. Deviated nasal septum is an impairment of the wall that separates one nostril from the other and in this condition the nasal septum is significantly crooked, making breathing difficult. Many people have some sort of imbalance in their breathing passage, and the imbalances cause significant breathing problem and requires treatment.

Alcohol Consumption

The consumption of too much alcohol before bedtime can also cause snoring. Alcohol acts like a sedative, and it helps relax the throat muscles. A sedative is a substance that induces sedation by reducing irritability or excitement, and its higher doses can cause slurred speech, staggering gait, poor judgment and poor reflexes. Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is the result of long-term heavy drinking. It weakens the heart muscle which can not pump enough blood to nourish the organs sufficiently.


Symptoms of cardiomyopathy include shortness of breath that is one of the main causes of snoring. Alcohol slows down muscle coordination, reflexes, movements and speech. If we drink too much alcohol, our breathing can reach dangerously low levels or even stop.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is one of the main reasons for snoring. The term sleep apnea indicates a sleep disorder that happens when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. During this time, our body and brain don’t get enough oxygen. The main risk factors for sleep apnea include – being overweight, age above age 40, a large neck size, large tonsils, a large tongue, a small jawbone and nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum, allergies or sinus problems. Sleep apnea can be divided into two types- obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when there are repeated periods of complete or partial blockage of the upper airway during sleep. It reduces the flow of oxygen to vital organs by causing irregular heart rhythms.

Sleep Apnea

During the phase of obstructive sleep apnea, the diaphragm and chest muscles work harder to open the obstructed airway and pull air into the lungs. Central sleep apnea happens due to the inconvenient service of our brain that does not send proper signals to the muscles that control our breathing. It is a disorder in which our breathing stops and starts during sleep. Sleeping position, heart failure and stroke can also be the reasons for central sleep apnea. Sleep apnea generates many health problems like high blood pressure; stroke, heart failure, irregular heart beats, heart attacks, diabetes, depression and headaches.

Home Remedies for Snoring

Snoring causes disturbance in our lives and the lives of our loved ones. By adopting some natural remedies to stop snoring, we can find effective results.

Open Nasal passage

Snoring remedy includes the opening of our nasal passage. A stuffy or clogged nose is caused by inflamed blood vessels in our sinuses. These irritated blood vessels are caused by a cold, the flu, allergies or a sinus infection. It creates a blockage in the nasal passage usually due to membranes lining the nose becoming swollen from inflamed blood vessels. A hot shower before you go to bed can help open nasal passages.
cold and flu

To keep our nasal passage moist, we can adopt the following snoring remedies- use a vaporizer, drink lots of fluids which will thin out the mucus, use a nasal saline which will help to prevent the nasal passage from drying out, apply warm compresses on face by using a wet towel which aids a lot to open the nasal passages.

Change your Sleep Position

At night, lie on a couple of pillows by keeping your head elevated to help make breathing more comfortable. The base of your tongue and soft palate collapse to the back wall of your throat when you are lying on your back. It causes a vibrating sound during sleep. Sleeping on your side helps a lot to prevent the problem. A full-length pillow that supports the entire body provides an easy fix and it also helps a lot to maintain sleeping on the side that is effective to reduce the level of snoring. Elevating the head four inches may ease breathing and encourage the tongue and jaw to move forward as well.

 sleep position

There are specially designed pillows available to prevent snoring by making sure the neck muscles are not crimped. As gravity makes it more likely for the tongue and soft tissues to drop and obstruct the airway, try to avoid sleeping on your back. Sleep apnea treatment includes the changes that are associated with your lifestyle. These lifestyle and sleeping habit changes include- limiting the use of alcohol and medicine, plenty of sleep and quitting smoking.


The exercises which help to strengthen the jaw, tongue and facial muscles by keeping these muscles tighter during sleep reduce the blockage of the air pathways. Excess weight can be one of the main reasons for snoring too. So, it is always helpful to perform regular exercises to help you get in better shape that will reduce your snoring. The tongue is one of the main causes of snoring as it can fall backwards during sleep and block the airway at the back of the throat. Therefore by strengthening your tongue you can eliminate this problem. Singing is one of the best known anti-snoring exercises that reduce the level of snoring.


While singing songs is helpful it is better to do singing exercises such as those done by professionals when they are warming up their throat muscles before a performance. Another exercise that you can perform is to pronounce each vowel over and over at least twenty or thirty times right before you go to sleep. This helps to loosen up your tongue and jaw muscles before you go to sleep. Snoring treatment also includes jaw exercise. One of the easiest exercises is a simple chewing exercise which we can practice by moving the jaw up and down in a chewing motion for a minute or two at a time, several times daily. It is even more effective when you perform it without anything in your mouth.

Now that you know the natural home remedies to stop snoring, try to adopt them and don’t forget to share your tips with us.

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