Last Updated on February 13, 2024 by Louise Carter
Snoring is a common issue, and many people snore at some stage. If you’ve never previously snored but have suddenly started, it’s crucial to find out why.
Sleeping on your back is associated with snoring because the airways are wide open, and soft tissue vibrates while you breathe. The tongue can also fall back and block the airways in the supine position.
Sleep deprivation, alcohol consumption, and muscle relaxant meds can also cause snoring.
Gaining weight, even if it feels like an innocuous amount, is a common explanation for sudden-onset snoring. Being overweight means excess fatty tissue forms around the throat, narrowing the airways.
If you’re feeling unwell and have recently started snoring, check if you’ve got tonsilitis (inflamed tissue at the back of the throat) or a cold or flu leading to blocked nasal passages.
Inflamed and enlarged nasal polyps in the sinus lining can also cause snoring, while pregnant women experience nasal blockages during their third trimester, usually caused by hormonal changes.
Smoking cigarettes and passive smoking can lead to snoring because the airways become inflamed.
Sudden snoring can usually be reversed by identifying the cause and making lifestyle adjustments.
Does Everybody Snore?
Some people are adamant they never snore and are surprised when told by a partner or listening back to a recording. Snoring is more prevalent among older people, so does everyone snore eventually?
Not everyone snores while sleeping. On average, 40–60% of adults, especially men, are regular snorers.
Why Have I Suddenly Started Snoring?
If you suddenly face complaints about snoring keeping a partner awake at night, consider why it may have started. You may not be aware because we don’t hear our snoring.
Before examining the potential reasons for snoring, it’s important to understand the difference between simple snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA):
- Simple snoring results from loose mouth, throat, or nose tissue. This tissue vibrates as you breathe, resulting in the sound of snoring.
- OSA arises when tissue in the upper respiratory tract narrows. During OSA, you may stop breathing for seconds at a time. Increasingly loud snores punctuate these episodes of breathlessness.
The primary causes of sleep apnea can be linked to the explanations for snoring. Not everybody who snores has sleep apnea, but anyone with sleep apnea will snore.
If you ask, “Why has my snoring gotten worse?” you likely have OSA, as this condition is linked to increasingly loud snoring. The explanation will likely be among the following:
You’ll accrue sleep debt if you don’t get 7-8 hours of sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to snoring or obstructive sleep apnea when you eventually sleep.
When we don’t get enough sleep, the throat muscles relax more when we finally doze off. This may sound like a positive step, but it means that soft tissue closes in on itself and blocks the airways.
Snoring as a consequence of sleep deprivation leads to a vicious circle.
You’ll likely find the quality of your sleep is interrupted, either because your body wakes you due to panic over breathlessness or a partner rouses you to cease the noise.
This naturally means you’ll accrue further sleep debt, which can lead to longer, louder snoring.
Find an agreeable way to catch up on your sleep, using separate bedrooms or sleeping on the couch if necessary, and see if this halts the snoring.
The position you sleep in will dramatically impact any tendency to snore. According to the Journal of Sleep and Clinical Medicine, chronic snorers are likelier to make noise – and experience mild to moderate OSA – in the supine position, lying on the back.
When we lay on our backs, the tongue falls into position against the top of the airways. As always, snoring leads to restricted air and encourages soft tissue vibration.
Sleeping on our side, whether leaving the legs straight or curling into the fetal position, is considered the best posture for anybody aiming to stop snoring.
This will keep your tongue neutral and leave the airways open. If you only feel comfortable on your back, consider wearing a retainer to hold your tongue in place.
If you roll back onto your back while sleeping, position a pillow behind you once you adopt your side-sleeping posture. This will spring you back if you start to roll over.
Tape a tennis ball back to your lower back in more severe cases.
The discomfort caused by rolling into this should encourage you to move again automatically, but unless you’re a very light sleeper, it should not create enough force to wake you.
Gaining weight, even just a few pounds, is among the leading contributors to sudden-onset snoring. As we add weight, more fatty tissue forms around the neck and throat, narrowing the airways.
If in doubt, take a cloth tape measure to your neck. If the measurement exceeds 17 inches in men or 16 inches in women, this will likely explain your snoring.
Losing weight will help with your snoring, and you will likely find that the noise ceases if you return to an ideal BMI for your height. Don’t seek a quick fix for weight loss.
You may have nasal polyps, which are soft, non-malignant growths in the nasal passage. Nasal polyps won’t hurt but can impair our ability to breathe freely at night.
If you present to a doctor with suspected nasal polyps, you’ll likely be prescribed a corticosteroid spray. This medication will shrink the polyps, which should minimize the snoring symptoms.
You may qualify for surgical removal if the polyps remain obstructive and cause problems.
Drinking Alcohol and Smoking Cigarettes
Alcohol relaxes the throat muscles. The looser the muscles, the more likely tissue will fold on itself and block the airways. Cease drinking alcohol at least 3 hours before bed to minimize this risk.
Even if you live a healthy lifestyle and maintain a trim BMI, alcohol consumption can lead to snoring.
Chest explains how alcohol dependence was the most significant risk factor in a study of women of a healthy weight who self-reported snoring.
Smoking cigarettes, or even passive smoking, can also be linked directly to snoring.
Smoke will irritate the airways of your upper respiratory tract, potentially leading to swelling. This makes it likelier you’ll snore following exposure to cigarette smoke.
Sudden snoring could be linked to allergies impacting your ability to breathe at night. Consider if anything in your sleeping area has changed, especially if you breathe normally during the day.
Considerations for potential allergens could include the following:
- Changes to washing detergent used to launder bedding, pillows, and nightclothes.
- New pillows or bedsheets, especially if made from an unfamiliar material.
- Sleeping beside a pet when you didn’t previously.
Overnight allergy attacks can be dangerous, as your body and mind need to shake off sleep inertia and may not respond soon enough.
Tonsils are two masses of flesh found at the back of the throat.
If the tonsils grow inflamed or enlarged, they narrow the airways and make snoring likely. Many children and teenagers have enlarged tonsils, which leads to snoring.
If your tonsils are to blame for snoring, you may have contracted tonsillitis – a viral or bacterial infection that leads to swelling of the tonsils.
The symptoms of tonsilitis outside of snoring and sleep apnea include the following:
- Fever (body temperature of over 100°F.)
- Pain and swelling in the throat, including difficulty swallowing.
- Changes to the voice or inability to speak.
- Regular coughing.
- Headaches and earaches.
Tonsilitis usually clears up without medical assistance within a week. However, if the symptoms are extremely severe or lead to prolonged sleep deprivation, consider a tonsillectomy.
As weight gain can be linked to snoring, the same applies to pregnancy.
Snoring is likely during the first and second trimesters and almost inevitable in the third. Sleep Medicine stated that snoring is common in healthy pregnant women and isn’t an immediate concern.
In addition to the unavoidable weight gain that comes with pregnancy, hormonal changes occur in the latter stages of gestation. As estrogen and progesterone levels rise, fluid in the nasal passages builds, and breathing becomes increasingly restricted.
If you show signs of sleep apnea while pregnant, consider getting medical help.
A lack of oxygen intake at night may cause issues for a fetus, as this oxygen supply needs to be shared. For the sake of the mother and baby, a sleep apnea mask may be advisable.
Side Effects of Medication
If you’ve started snoring after beginning a course of prescription medication, most notably sedatives or muscle relaxants, this will result from relaxed throat muscles.
Examples of these drugs, known as Benzodiazepines, include Valium and Xanax.
JAMA Otolaryngology stated that Benzodiazepines are frequently responsible for intense snoring. Unfortunately, these meds are commonly prescribed to patients reporting insomnia symptoms.
If you use sedative medications to help you sleep, limit your course to around 2 weeks.
Sudden onset snoring isn’t always a medical issue and can usually be managed with lifestyle changes. If your snoring grows increasingly loud, you have developed obstructive sleep apnea.