Is snoring hereditary?

Sleeping with a snorer can be exasperating. This is the reality for the partners of about 40 percent of men and 30 percent of women, which is the proportion of Australians who snore at least some nights.

Is this permanent? If a partner’s snoring runs in the family, does that mean this problem is genetic and has to be accepted?

Some snoring factors can be fixed, but some you’re stuck with

Research says it’s complicated: snoring does tend to run in families, but it’s not necessarily genetic. Sometimes snoring is caused by fully-changeable lifestyle factors that also run in families like genes do.

These could be eating or exercise patterns that lead to obesity, or they could be social habits such as drinking and smoking. They could also be old bedding items, like pillows and mattresses, handed down through families like genes!

The not-for-profit British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association (BSSAA) says if you come from generations of snorers you are three times more likely to be a snorer. It says the main contributors to snoring are obesity, neck circumference (fat around the neck), smoking and alcohol, head and facial shape, upper airway anatomy, and neurological control of breathing during sleep. It could also be sleep apnoea – which should be addressed medically.

Obesity: Sometimes genetic

Obesity causes snoring by narrowing the airway with neck fat. Snoring happens when parts of the nose or throat vibrate with breathing, because of a slightly obstructed or narrowed airflow. Depending on the person, the cause of their obesity can be inherited or it can be a lifestyle factor – influenced by family behavior and social factors.

Neck circumference: Sometimes genetic

The BSSAA says if the snorer measures more than 42cm around their neck because of fat, it’s a factor in snoring. If it’s not genetic, weight loss could help – but if it’s genetic, snoring may remain a fact of life.

Alcohol and smoking: Socially inherited

Smoking and drinking behavior isn’t genetic but can be influenced by people around you – so it can run in families. Smoking swells the lining of the nose and throat, and alcohol relaxes the airways and tongue, so both can result in a good old room-vibrating snore. Cutting back on cigarettes and drinking will go a long way towards achieving a peaceful night.

Head, face, and upper anatomy: Genetic

Features like a receding chin, a small jaw, and a large tongue can constrict the upper airway, making snoring more likely. You’re stuck with this.

Neurology: Genetic

Some people inherit faulty chemoreceptors that would usually control their breathing. This means their breathing won’t be normal, and the airway can narrow as a result. Unchangeable.


One simple factor that is entirely within your control is bedding. Snoring can be exacerbated by an unsuitable mattress or pillow – and let’s face it, old saggy mattresses and badly-shaped or dust mite- filled pillows are sometimes inherited through generations.

If your mattress is saggy, you’ll be tossing and turning to find a comfortable position and may end up lying in a way that constricts your airways. A good, durable mattress is important – to find the right bed for you and your partner, a useful tool is the Serta Sleep Selector.

To eliminate the chance of dust mite allergies aggravating the snoring, buy a new pillow. Making sure it is shaped to allow your airways to be open wide – not too thick or too thin – will also help with the snoring problem.

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