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Alcohol and Health

Why Do I Snore After Drinking Alcohol?

Published:
July 6, 2023
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10 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 6, 2023
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10 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
July 6, 2023
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10 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
July 6, 2023
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10 min read
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Reframe Content Team
July 6, 2023
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10 min read

You’re definitely not imagining it: every time you drink alcohol, you tend to fall asleep more quickly, but you also end up making a recurring obnoxious noise. Maybe you’re not someone who snores regularly, but you’ve noticed that after a night of drinking, you're snoring so loudly that you even wake yourself up. If you’re a snorer to begin with, chances are your snoring only gets worse whenever you drink alcohol. What’s going on?

In this post, we’ll explore the relationship between snoring and alcohol, and provide an answer to the question, “why does alcohol make you snore?” Let’s dive in!

Does Alcohol Cause Snoring?

First things first: if you’ve ever wondered, “does alcohol cause snoring?”, the answer is yes. Alcohol is a depressant and sedative, slowing down brain activity and making it easier for us to fall asleep faster. However, even though we might conk out after drinking, our overall quality of sleep is negatively affected by alcohol

In fact, our body actually spends less time in REM sleep, the sleep stage vital for our health, concentration, and motor skills. After a night of drinking, we might find ourselves waking up throughout the night, experiencing night sweats, or feeling fatigued in the morning. 

This is important to understand because it turns out that the same relaxant property of alcohol that leads us to quickly fall asleep can also cause snoring by triggering changes in our throat. 

Why Does Alcohol Make You Snore?

Now that we know that alcohol actually does cause snoring, let’s dive a little bit deeper into why. When we’re awake, muscles in our nose, mouth, and throat keep our airways open. But when we sleep, these muscles relax, which can lead to airways narrowing. As air passes through, the surrounding tissues vibrate, resulting in the sound we call snoring. 

Typically, the louder the snoring, the greater the degree of narrowing, sometimes with total blockage of airflow — otherwise known as sleep apnea. Tension in the muscles around the upper airway keeps it open, but alcohol consumption enhances the relaxation and reduces the tensions of these muscles and tissues. 

Because our throat muscles are already more relaxed at nighttime, the additional relaxation caused by alcohol can really restrict airflow. The air we breathe has to force its way through floppy muscle tissues, which vibrate against each other, causing the rumbles of snoring. Essentially, it’s the sound of our airways trying to force oxygen through — otherwise known as respiratory resistance. 

When we sleep, our respiratory resistance rises due to weight and gravity. This is why we tend to breathe more deeply while we’re asleep. People who don’t snore double their respiratory resistance during sleep, while those who snore have a respiratory resistance four times higher. But drinking alcohol can raise our respiratory resistance four to five times more. If we snore already and then drink alcohol, our respiratory resistance rises up to 8 times higher. 

This effect is cumulative, too: the more we drink, the more our muscles relax, leading to more and louder snoring. So if you’re wondering how to stop snoring after drinking, the answer is simple: that you should try drinking less

Furthermore, alcohol consumption can cause thenasal tissues inside our nose to swell, which contributes to congestion and makes it harder to breathe through our nose. Nasal congestion can put more pressure on the upper airway and intensify snoring. Dehydration, which naturally occurs when we drink, can cause dryness in our mouth and throat muscles, which also contributes to snoring. 

Diagram about how alcohol contributes to snoring

Alcohol and Sleep Apnea 

Drinking alcohol may also contribute to sleep apnea, a condition that causes short lapses in breathing throughout the night. Alcohol can affect people with both types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA).

OSA is much more common than CSA — affecting 10-30 percent of adults in the U.S. — and it involves our airway being blocked by tissues in our mouth and throat. In CSA, breathing problems occur because of disrupted signaling between our brain and the respiratory muscles.

Research indicates that alcohol may contribute to the development of OSA, and it can also worsen symptoms and outcomes in people who already have the condition. A meta-analysis of multiple studies found that OSA was around 25 percent more common in heavy drinkers compared to non-drinkers or light drinkers. However, more research is needed to determine if alcohol can actually cause OSA. 

Even so, multiple studies have found that alcohol use increases our apnea-hypopnea index (AHI), which measures how many times per hour our breathing pauses or becomes restricted. Drinking alcohol has also been tied to reduced blood oxygen levels in people with OSA. For instance, one study noted that alcohol consumption close to bedtime can contribute to the lowest oxygen saturation for people at risk for snoring or OSA. 

Quantity and Timing Can Make a Difference

Interestingly, certain factors make a difference in whether or not we’ll snore after drinking. For instance, the amount of alcohol consumed and how close to bedtime we drink can influence whether or not we’ll snore or experience OSA events. 

Research indicates that drinking alcohol in the evening or shortly before bedtime seems to increase our chance of snoring or OSA events. Cutting off alcohol consumption no later than 3 to 4 hours before bedtime can reduce its effects on snoring.

Similarly, studies suggest that larger amounts of alcohol can heighten snoring or its effects on OSA. Even two to three standard drinks are associated with negative effects. 

Keep in mind, though, that even a small amount of alcohol, such as a glass of wine, can decrease our quality of sleep by as much as 8 percent. High amounts — defined as more than 2 drinks for women and more than 4 for men — can decrease our sleep quality by 39 percent. 

The Problem With Snoring and Alcohol

So, why does all this matter anyway? Well, snoring might not seem problematic — except to any bedmates or roommates. But because it can disrupt our sleep, cause gaps in breathing, or even wake us up, it can lead to poor sleep quality over time, taking a toll on our physical and mental health

While not drinking won’t necessarily stop us from snoring, it’s likely to reduce it. Cutting back or eliminating our alcohol consumption will likely increase our quality of sleep in general, since alcohol is known to prevent restorative rest. If you’re finding it difficult to cut back on how much you drink in the evening, Reframe can help.

Improve Sleep Quality by Cutting Out Alcohol With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

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And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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