Why do Humans Snore?

Table of Contents

Often a subject of hilarity and ridicule, snoring has contributed a lot to the comic genre. But have you ever wondered why humans snore? Do you think animals snore?

Why do we snore when we go Zzzzz?

We don’t snore when we are awake, right? When we aren’t asleep, air passes through our airways unobstructed.


When we doze off, muscles in our body relax, and that includes the muscles in your mouth, tongue, and throat. This relaxation can lead to partial blockage or narrowing of the airway. Then when air is sucked in, these tissues vibrate, leading to very annoying noise.


Reasons, why this may happen, are often relatively non-threatening, like having bulky tissues in the throat, or poor muscle tone in the tongue and throat. The phenomenon of snoring is widely seen in middle-aged people. As we get older, we tend to lose muscle tone, and hence we snore. But even in young children, obesity can sometimes cause vibrations, leading to frequent snoring.


You may have heard the myth that side sleepers tend to snore more than people who sleep on their backs. It’s actually the other way around. When people sleep on their backs, gravity pulls the tissues around the airways downwards. This leads to the narrowing of the airways. Changing your sleeping position may not always have a significant impact on snoring, but it does provide some relief to some people.


Sometimes snoring can be an indication of underlying conditions like obstructive sleep apnea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

OSA is a sleep condition that causes a person to stop and start breathing again. In this condition, throat muscles relax at intervals, leading to blocked airways.


Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. OSA may be accompanied by symptoms other than snoring, like daytime sleepiness, restless sleep, waking up often during the night, and morning headaches. Hence, it’s always better to consult a doctor if these symptoms accompany your nightly snoring.

Mechanism behind sleep apnea. Credit: Drcamachoent/Wikimedia Commons

Allergies and Climate

Allergy season can exacerbate snoring. Allergies cause inflammation and block the nasal passage. Nasal inflammation caused by allergies is called allergic rhinitis . This may make breathing difficult and lead to snoring. Allergies are also associated with increased production of mucus, which can obstruct the airways.

Allergic rhinitis
Allergic rhinitis. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The dry season can intensify or even cause snoring. A drier climate can cause drying of the nasal passage. This can lead to inflammation and breathing difficulties. The result: you snore.


Hence, installing or using humidifiers  during the dry season can bring some ease. In addition to reducing the dryness of your house, humidifiers moisten the allergens too, ensuring that they remain stuck to the ground rather than floating through the air to bother you.


So, now you know why we humans snore. But what about animals?

Does your cat snore too?

If you’ve ever been surprised to hear your beloved cat or dog snore, don’t be. Evolution may be the reason they do so. Animals like dogs and cats are domesticated. That means, unlike a wild animal like a deer, they don’t have to worry about being attacked by predators. They can snore to their heart’s content, without having to worry about alerting their predators to their presence. Snoring is a privilege only a few animals can afford.


Obstructive Sleep Apnea: A sleep condition that causes a person to stop and start breathing again.


Inflammation: An immune response that can cause swelling.


Allergic Rhinitis: An allergic reaction accompanied by inflammation.


Humidifier: A device that increases the moisture of the atmosphere.

Flesch Kincaid Grade Level: 7.7


Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease: 61.9

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Kaur, S., Baslas, V., Aggarwal, H., Kumar, P., & Chand, P. (2015). Snoring: An Annoyance or a Serious Health Problem (Obstructive Sleep Apnea)? Indian Journal of Community Medicine. https://doi.org/10.4103/0970-0218.153889


Osman, A. M., Carter, S. E., & Carberry, J. C. (2018). Obstructive sleep apnea: current perspectives. Nature and Science of Sleep, Volume 10, 21–34. https://doi.org/10.2147/nss.s124657


Young, T., Finn, L., & Kim, H. S. (1997). Nasal obstruction as a risk factor for sleep-disordered breathing☆☆☆★. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 99(2), S757–S762. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0091-6749(97)70124-6

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