As many as forty-five percent of adults report occasional snoring, but over twenty-five percent snore every night. Snoring occurs when there is an obstruction in air flow in the back of the mouth and nose. The sound we hear is the result of the tongue and upper throat vibrating against the soft palate and uvula during breathing.
Snoring most commonly occurs in males and/or people who are overweight, and it usually worsens with age. Chronic snoring can be caused by poor muscle strength in the tongue and throat, resulting in the tongue falling backward and obstructing the throat, excessive throat tissue or soft tissue in the neck or a long soft palate and/or uvula. Snoring can also be caused by stuffy nose from sinus infection, hay fever or a cold; this type of snoring should go away after recovery from the illness.
When children have chronic snoring, it usually indicates enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Children are especially prone to infections of the tonsils or adenoids, which causes swelling, blockage and trouble breathing. Congenital abnormalities and enlargement of these glands, which would require surgery, may also cause chronic snoring in both children and adults.
Snoring can be the symptom of a more serious condition, such as sleep apnea. When snoring is interrupted by pausing, choking or gasping, sleep apnea is a high probability. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is characterized by episodes of breathing pauses that last longer than ten seconds that are caused by collapse of the upper airway. OSA prevents adequate oxygen from entering the bloodstream, leading to an overworked heart.