Do you snore?


Are you told that you snore loudly? Is your snoring followed by silent pauses? Does your snoring wake you up or your partner?

What is snoring?

As you sleep, your throat muscles relax, your tongue drops back, and the airways at the back of your throat become narrow. When you breathe in, the walls of the throat begin to vibrate. These vibrations cause the sound of snoring. Sometimes the walls of the throat completely collapse and cause a complete blockage called apnea (breathing interruption).

What are the risks

A common problem is the partner’s inability to sleep. Snoring, no matter how small, can prevent a partner from getting adequate sleep and restful sleep.

In severe snoring, sleep apnea often occurs – you stop breathing completely and your blood oxygen level drops.

Apnea is the interruption of breathing due to a temporary blockage of the airways. This is normally caused by a sagging throat and tongue. Sleepers with sleep apnea may wake up several times during the night, preventing them from getting adequate sleep. A longer-term problem is a damage to nerve cells.

We recommend that you get timely treatment for your sleep disorders if you suffer from snoring or apnea. These can seriously affect the health of the sleeper and his or her partner.

What are the causes of snoring?

Snoring is caused by strained breathing upon inhalation or exhalation. This effort is due to the relaxation of the muscles of the tongue and the tissues of the throat during deep sleep. This causes sagging of the walls and blockage of the airways, which then requires effort from the sleeper to breathe properly.

A greater sagging of the airways typically results in a greater effort required to breathe. The volume of the snoring will be proportional to the effort of the snorer, that is, the greater the relaxation, the louder the snoring will be. For mild snoring, a change in sleeping position from the back to the side may be sufficient.

If the effort to breathe becomes excessive, snoring can develop into sleep apnea. To learn more about sleep apnea disorder, its causes, and treatments, visit our service page or speak with one of our apnea specialists.

Factors that make breathing worse

Snoring is made worse by a number of things that make it harder to sleep, including the effort of breathing. To name the main factors:

  • The anatomy of the snorer;
  • His level of health;
  • His age;
  • His consumption habits.

Obesity and Anatomy

A person who is obese or has a high body mass index is more likely to suffer from severe snoring. Obesity can narrow the airways and make the throat tissue more sagging. This can increase the difficulty in breathing and cause a strong throat vibration as the air passes through.

On the other hand, a person may have an anatomy conducive to snoring through the shape of their mouth, nasal passages, or throat. Some people have tissues that are too soft or simply have less space to allow good air passage.

A person who suffers from a deviated nasal passage may be forced to breathe exclusively through their mouth when sleeping, encouraging snoring.

It is sometimes typical for pregnant women to start snoring. This is due to the narrowing of the airways, a problem directly related to pregnancy. This is usually temporary and will resolve itself after pregnancy.

Disorders and health problems

Certain problems or diseases can reduce the space of the airways or nasal passages, which increases the risk of snoring. If the sleeping person cannot breathe through their nose, they will be forced to breathe through the mouth. Since air passage is less efficient in this way, the risk of snoring increases. Such people may simply have allergies, a cold, or congestion. Other conditions surrounding swelling of the tonsils, throat, or sinuses can also increase the strain and vibration of the air when breathing.


An older person is likely to have less tone in their respiratory system. Its muscles and tissues become slack during sleep, reducing the space available for air passage.

Consumption of alcohol and drugs

Consumption of products that have a sedative effect encourages sagging tongue and throat during sleep, especially when taken for sleep.

Treatments to stop snoring

Treatments vary greatly depending on the severity of the snoring. For a mild problem, it may be appropriate to simply change some habits or purchase inexpensive anti-snoring devices.

Treatments for serious snoring problems involve first consulting a healthcare professional to properly diagnose the disorder. Treatment may involve the use of a positive air pressure machine (CPAP) or surgery.

A diagnosis can reveal a sleep apnea disorder. This disorder is somewhat of an aggravated form of severe snoring. Apnea involves a range of additional risks to a person’s health and should be treated in the right way.

If you are unsure of the steps to take for snoring assessment and treatment, see a doctor at the Montreal Sleep Center.

Find a solution to snoring


  • If you smoke, consider take steps to quit smoking.
  • No alcohol before bedtime.
  • Take steps to treat use of recreational drugs.
  • If obese, take steps to lose weight.


Poor health habits can increase risk factors for developing sleep apnea, such as obesity, which usually puts additional strain on the airways. Consult a healthcare practitioner to see if your health influences your risk for sleep apnea or snoring.


For mild snoring, you can equip yourself with self-service treatments, such as an anti-snoring pillow, nasal bands, or a chinstrap. That being said, these snoring control devices have their limits. For complete and adequate treatment, we recommend that you seek professional assistance.


The Montreal Sleep Center is dedicated to helping snorers and their partners improve their sleep. Snoring and sleep apnea are conditions that can be treated. If you suspect that you are suffering from sleep apnea, please contact us to make an appointment.


Frequently Asked Questions About Snoring Problems

If snoring is part of your lifestyle, it is advisable to go to bed at regular times, as well as reduce your consumption of alcohol and drugs. This can help reduce the sedative effects on sleep that relax the airways and cause snoring.

Snoring is caused either by a sagging throat and tongue or insufficient airway space. In all cases, the snorer must make an increased effort to breathe since the airway space is limited. The air circulates with greater force and vibrates the walls, causing the sound of snoring.

Since nearly 50% of adults snore at least occasionally, snoring can be considered normal. However, there are different levels of snoring and there are different health risks for snorers depending on the severity.