What causes snoring and sleep apnoea?

Snoring is caused by the vibration of the tissues lining the air passages or roof of the mouth. This can be caused by factors such as smoking, alcohol, being overweight, ageing, hormonal issues, or even reflux affecting the tissues of the air passage.

prevent snoring and sleep apnoea

An open, clear airway during sleep allows for normal breathing and quiet sleeping. All the above factors mentioned previously ultimately have the same effect: that is to allow the tissues in the back of the throat (pharynx, larynx area) to obstruct or interfere with the airways. They do this because either they are swollen and inflamed (this happens with smokers), enlarged and thickened (common with overweight people), or because during sleep the head and neck are incorrectly positioned and naturally obstruct the throat (this occurs when you sleep with your chin against your chest, usually whilst sleeping on your back).

A recent discovery is that the lower jaw position (mandibular position) also plays a huge role in snoring and sleep apnoea. Regardless of whether you sleep on your back or your side, when you relax during sleep, your lower jaw tends to slide back very slightly. Although this is hardly perceptible externally, it has a massive effect internally. With the jaw receded, it pushes the soft tissues in the back of the throat, into the airways, thus causing mild to moderate obstruction. Snoring and sleep apnoea thus follow.

 How can I reduce my snoring or sleep apnoea?

Your doctor or sleep specialist will probably mention the following treatment regimens to you, some or all of which may be appropriate.

    • If you're a smoker or drink alcohol, make use of the many methods available these days to stop smoking, and consider reducing your alcohol intake.
    • If you are carrying extra weight, consider an eating and exercise plan that will help you shed the kilos necessary to reduce your snoring.
    • Control heartburn or reflux with the appropriate medication after having been checked by your physician.
    • Consider retraining yourself to sleep on your side and make use of the correct therapeutic pillow.
    • Consult your doctor about using a MAD (Mandibular Advancement Device) whilst you sleep. This keeps the jaw forward and reduces snoring and sleep apnoea.
    • Consult your doctor about Sleep Trials at a sleep clinic and the use of CPAP machines at home (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machines). As a last resort, surgery may be considered.                   
snoring and sleep apnoea
Although snoring is caused by multiple factors it can be helped by something as simple as the anti-snore pillow.


Yes, in many cases you can. A poor quality, conventional, or worn-out pillow tends to allow the chin to drop. As this happens it reduces the airflow through the air passages of the throat. Relaxed breathing during sleep then requires more effort, and this is exacerbated by the vibration of the soft tissues in the throat - this is snoring.Can I really reduce snoring by using the correct pillow?

The correct therapeutic pillow or contour pillow supports the curve of the neck and keeps the airways more open. As a result it is physically more difficult for snoring to occur regardless of any other factors that predispose the person to it. If you try to mimic snoring with your chin down on your chest and then try the same thing with your head backwards you will see how this works. If you snore or suffer from sleep apnoea whilst lying on your side, then a pillow should be chosen that prevents your chin and lower jaw from receding during sleep.

At Pillow Science we constantly review the best pillows in the world and stock a wide range of these so you can be sure to find an anti-snoring pillow that will help keep your airways more open and minimise your snoring.

Click here to browse the anti-snore and sleep apnoea pillows

Mattress & Pillow Science. The healthy sleep specialists.