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NHS Choices Condition

Content supplied by NHS Choices

Snoring is caused when the soft palate (the back of the roof of the mouth) and other tissue in the mouth, nose and throat vibrates. The vibration occurs when the air you breathe does not flow smoothly through the air passages. Snoring can occur when you are breathing in or out.

When you sleep, the muscles in your mouth, throat and nose relax, so are more likely to vibrate. You do not snore when you are awake because the tissues are not relaxed enough to cause any vibration.

There are many factors that can limit airflow through your passages and cause snoring. Some of these factors are outlined below.

Being overweight

If you are overweight, you are more likely to snore. Extra fat deposited around the neck and throat can cause the surrounding tissues to sag, which stops air flowing smoothly through and causes vibration. This is more of a problem for men, who are more likely to store extra fat around the neck.


As you get older, your throat muscles become weaker. This makes them vibrate more easily when you sleep.

Alcohol and medicines

Drinking alcohol or taking medicines such as sleeping pills relaxes the muscles in your body. This means that the tissue in your throat, mouth and nose are more likely to stop air flowing smoothly through. It also makes them more likely to vibrate.

Sleeping on your back

Sleeping on your back makes your tongue fall backwards towards your throat. This can narrow your airway and partly block the airflow.

Colds, allergies and smoking

Colds and allergies can block the airflow through the nasal passage. This will encourage you to breathe through your mouth, where there is more tissue that will vibrate. Smoking can also inflame (swell) and partially block the airways.

Other factors

Other physical factors that can cause a blockage in the mouth and nose and narrow your airway are:

  • a low-set or thick soft palate,
  • enlarged tonsils,
  • a long uvula (the piece of skin that hangs between your tonsils), and 
  • a damaged or misshapen nose, which limits airflow.
view information about Snoring on www.nhs.co.uk »

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