Snoring or Choking?

Snoring is a common problem caused by the relaxation of muscles in your nose and throat; however, it can be an indication of something more serious.

Snoring has quite many causes. From an anatomical standpoint, partial closure of the upper airway (the nose and throat) cause snoring. The neck muscles relax during sleep. This relaxation of the neck muscles may be excessive and thereof lead to a partial closure of the upper airway making it too narrow for enough air to travel through to the lungs. When this happens, enough oxygen is not taken in for the body to perform its essential functions. The brain then sends a signal to the body to wake up to get the oxygen it needs, likely resulting in the person waking up throughout the night without realizing it. 

Choking occurs when the upper airway is closed completely, and the person cannot breathe. The person wakes up from sleep and coughs in an attempt to open the airway. When a person who snores also chokes. He is very likely to have Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

Why do people snore?

People that snore tend to have either enlarged tonsils, an enlarged tongue or excess weight around the neck, which make them more prone to snoring. Structural reasons like the shape of one's nose or jaw can also cause snoring. The snoring sound itself is a result of the narrowing of a person's airway, which causes a throat vibration and the snoring sound. Regardless of the reason, 40% of normal adults snore regularly, whether they realize it or not. 

Snoring and sleep apnea. Snoring and sleep apnea are alarmingly linked. 

  • 1 in 3 men and approximately 1 in 5 women who are habitual snorers suffer from some degree of obstructive sleep apnea. 
  • Sleep apnea prevents you from getting the healthy sleep you need to lead a refreshed, vibrant life. 
  • It has also been linked to a number of other health conditions like type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart failure and hypertension. So regardless of what is specifically causing snoring for you, if you snore — or if you suspect you snore — consider it a sign that something might not be right. Take our sleep apnea quiz.

What to do about snoring?

Snoring is often a symptom of sleep-disordered breathing. If you suspect that you or someone you know may have sleep-disordered breathing (SDB). This three-step screening process for SDB can get you on the path to getting diagnosed.

  1. Assess- Can you recognise some of the common symptoms of SDB? 
  2. Screen- Complete a simple five-question sleep apnea symptom test as a quick screener. Take our sleep apnea quiz.
  3. Refer- Ask your doctor about a sleep study to determine whether or not you have SDB, and if it is, to determine how severe it is and the various treatment options



Ohayon MM et al. Snoring and breathing pauses during sleep: telephone interview survey of a United Kingdom population sample. BMJ. 1997;314:860–3

02 Young T et al. The occurrence of sleep-disordered breathing among middle-aged adults. N Engl J Med 1993; 328(17):1230–5