Snoring & Sleep-Disordered Breathing

Snoring is extremely common. 45 percent of American adults snore occasionally, and 25 percent are habitual snorers. While many consider it a mere nuisance, snoring can sometimes be a sign of a sleep disorder causing a serious medical condition.

What Causes Snoring?

When you sleep, your tongue and throat muscles relax. If they relax too much, they can droop backward and block the airway, vibrating loudly when you breathe. This causes the telltale noisy sounds associated with snoring. The more the airway is obstructed, the louder the snoring can become.

There are several factors that increase the odds you will snore. People with bulky throat tissue or an enlarged/elongated soft palate are more at risk for snoring, as are those who experience frequent nasal congestion or have a deviated septum, nasal polyps, enlarged tonsils or adenoids.

Snoring tends to worsen with age. Common factors such as weight changes, body changes, normal aging and use of sedatives such as alcohol or sleep aids can contribute to snoring and sleep disturbance.

In some individuals, the airway becomes so obstructed that breathing is interrupted; this leads to a serious medical condition known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Tips For Quieting Your Snoring

If your snoring isn’t a complication of sleep apnea, implementing lifestyle changes may help eliminate the problem. Useful tips include:

  • Sleeping on your side instead of your back
  • Losing weight
  • Avoiding alcohol before bedtime
  • Treating allergies

Snoring Treatments

Snoring is a problem that affects a large number of adults; about 45 percent of people snore at least occasionally, and one in five American adults are habitual snorers. It’s no laughing matter either: snoring can cause a riff in the strongest of relationships because it robs the spouse of rest and can lead to a variety of problems ranging from resentment to separate bedrooms.

Not only that, but snoring may be hazardous to your health; it is often a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder characterized by repetitive pauses in breathing during sleep. This prevents the sufferer from getting restorative sleep and causes daytime drowsiness, headache, irritability, confusion and loss of memory. It increases the risk of automobile accidents and can lead to serious medical complications including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure.

There are many treatment options for snorers, including medical procedures and natural remedies, as well as simple lifestyle changes.

Sleep Testing

Careful examination of the head, neck, nose and throat can help lead to a snoring/sleep apnea diagnosis. Often, a sleep study—performed at home or in a special overnight lab—is needed to establish the severity of this condition.