What Causes Snoring? How Can You Prevent It?

4 min read

Last Modified 29 September 2021 First Added 16 April 2017

By Chris Clark

Snoring can be a noisy night-time pain for those sleeping near the nasal offender, but it can also disrupt the snorer’s sleep too. Snoring can affect the nasal passage, the soft palate which is a soft layer of tissue at the back of the roof of the mouth, the base of the tongue, tonsils and the uvula.

Snoring occurs when sleeping and the airways in your head relax enough to narrow, this increases the speed at which you breathe out and affects the air pressure in the airways. This change of pressure means that the soft walls of the airways are sucked inward and close, thus causing vibrations when air is forced through by heavier breathing.

Evidence has shown that once you start snoring, it will only get worse without treatment. Since snoring weakens the muscles in the head and neck, it becomes harder and harder to keep the airways open and the snoring only increases.

couple in bed snoring

Common Snoring Causes

Allergic Rhinitis

This is where the inside of your nose becomes swollen and inflamed because of an allergic reaction to dust and pollen. Read more with the NHS Guide on Allergic Rhinitis.

Drinking Alcohol

We know that alcohol can disrupt your sleep if consumed too close to bedtime because it causes your brain to skip the critical REM cycle and jump straight into a deep sleep. But alcohol goes further and relaxes of muscles around the airways, which only makes snoring worse! Read more with the NHS Guide on Drinking and Alcohol.

Related: The Science Behind Why Alcohol Is Bad Before Bed


If you carry too much fat around your neck, there is a greater chance that you will be a snorer. What is too much fat around the neck? According to the NHS, people with a neck circumference of more than 43cm, or 17 inches, tend to snore a lot. This is because the fat weighs down on the airways and makes it difficult for air to circulate. Read more with the NHS Guide on Obesity.


Apart from the obvious health risk of smoking, it also inflames your airways, narrows them and makes you snore, another reason to quit! Read more with the NHS Guide to Stop Smoking.



Image of a woman with pillow over ears

How to Stop Snoring

We’ve looked at causes of snoring, now we can explore some simple solutions that will make the snorer quieter for longer, and help everyone sleep a bit better.

DIY Lifestyle Changes

Many of the causes above can be solved with simple lifestyle changes. Exercising more to lose weight will alleviate pressure on airways. Stopping smoking will prevent the irritation of nasal tissue, decrease swelling and stop the build-up of catarrh, all this will help regulate your breathing and reduce snoring. Avoid alcohol before bed, a unit or two long before bed won’t hurt, but time it wrong and you’ll be snoring all night. Antihistamine tablets or a nasal spray, particularly during hay fever season, can make a big difference when pollen is ruining your nights.

Related: Sleeping Yourself Thinner Is Now A Thing

Commercial Solutions to Snoring

The NHS suggests asking your pharmacist for help on choosing the right device to prevent snoring. You can opt for nasal strips to widen nostrils and throat sprays to decrease any inflammation. Alternatively, you can go for a Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD) which sits in the mouth and repositions the jaw, thus taking pressure off the airways and helping you breathe easy.

Medical Solutions to Snoring

Speak to your GP before considering this, but sometimes snoring can be so bad that surgery is an option. Surgery will fix structural problems such as enlarged adenoids. If snoring is particularly caused by a loose soft palate, then a technique called radiofrequency ablation can tighten the palate using heat, and may help. You can read more about radiofrequency ablation of the soft palate here.

Snippet from snoring infographic

For more information, check out the NHS guide on snoring.

About the author