Snoring is extremely common and in many cases, relatively harmless. Nearly everyone snores at one time or another. Occasional light snoring at worst is a minor annoyance. Loud and habitual snoring can disrupt your sleep and may be a sign of a much more serious sleep disorder – obstructive sleep apnea.
Snoring is a sound that occurs in the upper airway as you breathe in air. The unmistakable sound is a sign that your airway is partially blocked, usually by soft tissue in your throat. The flow of air causes the soft tissue to vibrate, generating the noise which comes out of your nose, mouth or both.
The volume of snoring depends on the person. You may snore so loudly you wake yourself up. Snoring may also cause you to have a dry mouth or to wake up with a dry mouth and a sore throat.
Obstructive sleep apnea frequently goes undiagnosed because people often mistaken the serious sleep disorder for snoring. About half of loud snorers have some form of sleep apnea.
Snoring and obstructive sleep apnea have similar causes. Sleep apnea happens when the tissue in the upper-airway blocks the entire airway, causing a pause in your breathing. The blockage keeps oxygen from reaching your organs including your heart and brain. When the blood-oxygen level drops low enough, the body momentarily wakes up. It can happen so fast that you may not be aware you woke up.
Snorers who suffer from sleep apnea may make gasping, choking or snorting sounds as they try to breathe and feel drained of energy during the day.
If you think you may have obstructive sleep apnea, you can get diagnosed by a board certified sleep physician at an AASM accredited sleep center.
There are several behavioral and medical treatments for snoring. Medical factors may affect treatment, so it is important to speak with a physician.
Losing weight can decrease the severity of snoring because excess fat tissue in the back of the neck worsens snoring. Weight loss alone may not help stop snoring for everyone. Avoiding alcohol, drugs, muscle relaxers and tobacco products can also help reduce or eliminate the presence of snoring.
You may be able to reduce snoring by sleeping on your side instead of your back. Shifting your sleeping position keeps the weight of your neck from collapsing on your airway. This approach may not help everyone.