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What causes snoring?

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Quick Answer

Mayo Clinic explains snoring occurs when tissues in the throat relax enough to partially block the airway and cause vibrations. When a human sleeps, muscles in the soft palate, tongue and throat naturally relax. Air through the mouth and nose becomes more forceful as the airways narrow. Snoring gets louder as airways decrease in size.

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Other biological factors exacerbate snoring, according to Mayo Clinic. A low, thick soft palate narrows the airway. An elongated uvula may interfere with airflow. Overweight people have extra tissues in the back of the throat. Chronic nasal congestion increases snoring by allowing less air through the nose. A serious condition known as sleep apnea occurs when throat tissues partially block air from getting to the lungs. Consuming alcohol before bed relaxes throat muscles even more than normal.

The National Sleep Foundation explains anatomical abnormalities may increase the chances of someone snoring. Enlarged tonsils, larger-than-normal adenoids, a deviated septum and nasal polyps create an exaggerated narrowing of the throat during sleep. The aging process gradually relaxes throat muscles over time, so snoring may occur later in the life.

Snoring worsens when someone breathes through the mouth rather than the nose, especially with a larger soft palate. Snoring intensifies and gets louder if the nose is also obstructed in some way, according to MedicineNet.com. People naturally breathe more through the nose at night because the air is warmer and contains more moisture.

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