Why do people snore?

Snoring is the vibration of the respiratory structures and resulting sounds due to the obstructive air movement during breathing while sleeping.  The lungs need to inhale harder to make-up from the reduction of how much air is getting into the body.  The snoring comes from the vibration of the soft palate at the back of the mouth and the uvula that extends down from it and covers the airway.  Several things can cause someone to snore:  drinking too much alcohol, nasal congestion, obesity or enlarged tonsils, and adenoids.  

The wall of the nose is made up of movable and immovable parts.  The immovable part is bony; the movable parts are cartilaginous.  The mobility of the cartilaginous parts serve as partial protection against injury.  The alar cartilage dilates or constricts when the muscles acting on the nose contract.  Nasal breathers can flare their nose.  Nasal clips applied to the nostrils pinch the muscles a small amount but it is enough to allow easier breathing and to prevent snoring.  

The cavity of the nose communicates with the exterior through the nostrils.  And it opens posteriorly into the nasopharynx through the choanae.  The floor of the nose is the roof of the mouth or hard palate.  The roof of the nose is at the base of the skull.  Three nasal conchae project from the lateral wall as shelves:  superior concha, middle concha, and inferior concha.  Excessive secretions block the nose.  Swelling of the nasal cavity due to the submucosal venous plexus and results in nasal block during upper respiratory tract infections.  In the mouth, the tongue has intrinsic and extrinsic muscles.  Genioglossus is an extrinsic muscle that protrudes the tongue; when genioglossus is paralyzed, the tongue has a tendency to fall posteriorly.  Obstructing the oropharynx with a risk of suffocation.  Total relaxation of genioglossus occurs during general anesthesia.  Therefore, an airway is inserted to prevent the tongue from falling back.  In unconscious patients, the neck is extended and the chin is lifted; this results in moving the tongue forward and which opens the airway.  Swelling or weakness of the soft palate results in narrowing of the airway and snoring.  

Snoring is typically caused by vibration of the uvula or soft palate.  Surgery can reduce the size of the uvula and soft palate.  Weight reduction might be helpful in mild cases of snoring.  The palatine tonsils can be another source of snoring.  Snoring by itself is not that dangerous,  but some people have sleep apnea from severe blockage of air.  It keeps them from getting a good night's sleep.  


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  • Last Updated Dec 18, 2023
  • Views 3
  • Answered By Tamiko Kemp

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