Normal Breathing

When you breathe, air passes through your throat on its way to the lungs. The air travels past the soft, flexible structures in the throat such as the soft palate, uvula, tonsils, and tongue. During the day, the muscles surrounding these structures tighten to prevent blockage of the air way. During the night, these muscles relax somewhat and, in the absence of an obstruction, the airway stays open enough to allow air to flow freely into and out of the lungs.


If your throat structures are enlarged, or the muscles relax too much during sleep, the air way may be partially blocked. As air from the nose or mouth flows by this partial blockage, the structures in the throat vibrate and rattle, causing the familiar sound of snoring. Noise from snoring increases with age, weight gain, and when more of the airway is blocked. The noise level can be loud enough that those who snore may wake themselves or others several times during the night.

What causes snoring?

Snoring occurs when floppy tissue in the airway relaxes during sleep and vibrates. Most snoring is caused by an enlarged soft palate at the back of the mouth, though the tongue, tonsils, adenoids and congested nasal passages can also contribute to the sound. The level of snoring can be aggravated be excess weight, alcohol intake, and smoking.

Is snoring dangerous to my health?

Snoring may be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a serious disorder in which the snorer stops breathing several times an hour during sleep. Your physician will perform a full examination to determine whether you are a “simple snorer” or if you have a more significant breathing disorder. Either condition may be easily treated

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