When we’re asleep, the muscles in our necks relax. Sometimes, they relax so much that the upper airway (the nose and throat) partially closes, narrowing the passageway in which air travels to our lungs. This narrowing of your airway causes a vibration in the throat when you breathe, which causes the sound of snoring.
There are many reasons why our neck muscles may relax. Swollen tonsils, too much alcohol, being overweight, even the shape of your nose and jaw – these are just some of the factors that could cause your neck muscles to relax and cause you to snore.
Snorers with obstructive sleep apnoea see their muscles relax even more. Sleep apnoea occurs when the neck muscles relax to a point where they fully obstruct the airways for 10 seconds or more. In severe cases, these obstructions, or apnoeas, can last up to two minutes.
So in fact, snoring and sleep apnoea are both caused by the same factors – but the neck muscles for people with sleep apnoea are lazier than they are in people who just snore. Beware, though: lazy neck muscles get even lazier over time, so people who just snore run the risk of eventually developing sleep apnoea.