Maybe you don’t realize you snore — you just notice that you’re not rested when you wake up. Or maybe your bed partner complains about not being able to sleep. Whatever the reason, if you suspect that you might snore, you’ll want to find out more about what’s causing it and how it can be treated.
We talked to Jeffrey Moller, MD, a sleep medicine specialist at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix, about what triggers snoring, when you should be concerned and what you should do if you snore.
What is snoring?
Snoring is a condition that occurs when your tongue and throat relax while you’re sleeping. When they relax, they fall back and partly block your upper airway. Then, as air moves in and out of your upper airway, it causes an audible vibration.
“Snoring is very common, but it may be a sign that something more concerning is occurring during sleep,” Dr. Moller said.
How does snoring affect sleep?
Snoring can interrupt your sleep or your partner’s sleep. And sleep is crucial for:
- Functioning well during the day
- Maintaining your energy levels
- Keeping your immune system healthy
- Ensuring optimal mental health
When should you be worried about snoring?
If you snore, it could be a sign of an underlying sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea. With sleep apnea, you may also be sleepy in the daytime and feel like your sleep is not refreshing.
When you have sleep apnea, your upper airway collapses during sleep, so you don’t get enough air in your lungs or, possibly, enough oxygen in your blood. Your heart rate and blood pressure typically rise. You may often awaken during the night even though you’re not aware of waking up.
Sleep apnea can occur in people of any age or size. If you suspect you might have sleep apnea, it’s critical to be screened and treated if necessary. That way, you can sleep better and reduce your risk factors for health conditions linked to sleep apnea, such as high blood pressure, heart attack, heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms and stroke. “The benefits of treatment far exceed just the obvious improvement in sleep quality,” Dr. Moller said.
[Want to find out more about your potential risk for sleep apnea? Take our free sleep apnea risk assessment.]
Snoring and sleep apnea can be caused by a variety of health conditions, including obesity, nasal congestion, craniofacial abnormalities or enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Your doctor can recommend sleep disorder testing to help determine if your snoring is causing your health problems.
When should you see a doctor about snoring?
If you often snore, especially if you snore loudly, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor to rule out any underlying health issues. If your bed partner notices a pause in your breathing when you’re sleeping, you wake up feeling like you’re choking, you’re sleepy during the day or you don’t feel refreshed after sleeping, it’s essential to seek medical help.
How can you treat snoring?
If you snore but don’t have an underlying breathing disorder, you may not need treatment unless snoring disturbs your partner. You may be able to treat snoring by:
- Losing weight
- Changing sleep position, such as sleeping on your side
- Treating nasal congestion
- Using over-the-counter products that can widen your airways, such as nasal strips or oral appliances
- Quitting smoking
- Avoiding alcohol use before bedtime
If you’re diagnosed with sleep apnea, treating it should reduce or eliminate your snoring. “There are a lot of treatments for sleep apnea, and one size doesn’t fit all,” Dr. Moller said. The most common treatment is a non-invasive continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) breathing machine that helps hold the airway open.
Other treatment options include changing sleeping positions, oral appliances, airway surgery and implantable devices. “If a particular therapy didn’t work for you in the past, don’t be discouraged. New treatments continue to emerge,” Dr. Moller said.
The bottom line
When you snore, you may not sleep well. And your partner might not get a good night’s sleep, either. Snoring can also be a sign of a serious medical condition called sleep apnea. If you’d like to connect with a sleep medicine specialist to learn what might be causing your snoring and how you can reduce snoring, reach out to Banner Health.