By Renee Mercer

The National Sleep Foundation estimates that approximately 37 million Americans snore on a regular basis. While men and overweight individuals are more likely to develop a snoring problem compared to the rest of the population, this frustrating condition can affect just about everyone. So what’s to blame? While a definitive culprit has yet to be found, researchers hypothesize that several factors contribute to snoring. Here are the main offenders:

  • Age – As you age, your throat narrows, and loses the amount of muscle tone it once had. When you sleep, the relaxed muscles prevent the free flow of air through your nose and mouth, increasing the chances of snoring.
  • Mouth Anatomy – Blame it on genetics; snoring often results from the way you’re built. Individuals who have a cleft palate, enlarged tonsils, or a longer-than-usual soft palate or uvula are more likely to experience snoring when the relaxed muscles vibrate against each other during sleep.
  • Colds and Allergies – Sometimes, a bad cold or sinus infection can have even the quietest sleeper sawing logs. That’s because a congested nose needs to work extra hard to move oxygen down the windpipe into your lungs. The additional effort creates an exaggerated vacuum in the throat, making the air move rapidly (and noisily).
  • Fitness Level – Obese or overweight people are at a heightened risk for snoring because there is more fatty, bulky tissue in the back of their throats. This is especially true for men, who have narrower air passages than women to begin with!
  • Alcohol and Tobacco – Alcohol is a sedative, so it’ll reduce the resting tone of your body’s muscles – including the muscles in the back of your throat. Knock back a few drinks before bedtime, and you run the risk of snoring through the night (even if you’ve never had a snoring problem before)! Several studies point to an association between smoking and snoring, too – one study found that smokers were more than twice as likely to have snoring problems than non-smokers.
  • Sleep Posture – Everyone has their preferred sleeping style, but certain positions can exacerbate snoring and actually make it worse. Sleeping on your back causes the tongue to fall inwards, potentially blocking the windpipe and increasing the likelihood of that dreaded, dreaded sound.