What Is Snoring?

Written by Manny Erlich on August 2, 2012. Posted in Snoring 101, Why Do We Snore?

Snoring is a loud, hoarse and brash breathing noise people make during sleep.  It is most common in adults but does occur in children as well.  While snoring is annoying to others, it is not necessarily a sign of a sleeping disorder, although often it is and sometimes even a serious condition.

Sometimes snoring is a symptom of a sleeping disorder called sleep apnea, a condition that causes you to stop breathing for 10 seconds or more while you sleep.  When this happens, the sleeper gasps making a sudden snort before resuming breathing.  With sleep apnea, this pattern repeats many times through the night.

If you suspect that you might have sleep apnea, you should talk to your dentist, doctor or healthcare provider about it.  They may prescibe a simple sleep study.

Snoring is a serious social problem, not to mention the potential medical implications.  Persons who share sleeping beds or rooms with someone who snores know all too well how disturbing snoring can be.

Some Snoring Causes

Sometimes, the reason why someone snores is unknown.  But the most common snoring causes are the conditions listed below:

  • Overweight – which leads to relaxed neck tissues that put pressure on the airway
  • Swelling of the muscle at the roof of the mouth (soft palate)
  • Nasal congestion from colds or allergies
  • Use of sleeping pills, pain killers or alcohol
  • A large tongue
  • Abnormal bone structure in the face
  • Last month of pregnancy

Snoring Remedies

The following snoring remedies may reduce your nightly noises (these are not intended as sleep apnea treatment as well):

  • Avoid drinking alcohol or the use of sedatives before bedtime
  • Sleep on your side, if possible.  To train yourself to sleep on your side, some doctors suggest that you stuff a tennis ball into a sock and sew it to your pajamas between your shoulder blades.  This will cause you discomfort every time you roll over on your back and remind you to stay on your side
  • If you are overweight, lose weight
  • Try over-the-counter snoring remedies, such as nasal strips that might help widen your nostrils.

Should I Contact A Medical Professional?

Loud snoring is an obnoxious condition.  It disturbs the sleep of a sleeping partner or anyone who has to share your sleeping quarters.  Snoring has been known to end relationships.  This alone is enough reason to seek medical help.

Loud snoring at night may cause daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, weight loss, poor concentration and memory, even accidents due to inattention.  If you experience any of these symptoms, it is a good idea to talk about it with your dentist, doctor or healthcare provider.

When your sleeping partner tells you that you stop breathing during sleep (sleep apnea), you most definitely should contact your doctor.

Read more articles from snoreworld about How to Stop Snoring

Children who are chronic snorers should be evaluated for sleep apnea.  Sleep apnea in children has been linked to growth problems, ADHD, aggressive behaviors, poor school performance, high blood pressure, and even bedwetting.  Although most children who snore DO NOT have sleep apnea, they should still be tested to rule it out.

What Can I Expect From My Medical Professional?

During your first medical professional visit, your dentist or doctor will ask you questions that will help him to evaluate your snoring.  He may also perform a physical exam, paying careful attention to your throat, mouth and neck.  His questions may include the following:

  • Is your snoring loud and frequent?
  • Do you snore more when sleeping on your back?
  • Does your snoring ever wake you up?
  • Do you snore all night long or only occasionally?
  • Do you sometimes stop breathing when you sleep?
  • Do you have other symptoms like drowsiness, morning headaches, difficulty concentrating or memory loss?

Based on your answers and his/her findings during his/her examination, your dentist or doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist for sleep studies, or he/she may decide to treat you as follows:

  • refer you to a dentist for an oral appliance that will prevent your tongue from falling back during sleep.
  • recommend a diet that will help you lose weight.
  • If he/she diagnosed sleep apnea, recommend a CPAP mask (to wear on your nose while sleeping) to reduce snoring and sleep apnea.
  • recommend surgery on your palate.
  • recommend surgery to correct a deviated septum or to remove your tonsils and/or adenoids.

Further Readings
Franklin KA, Anita H, Axelsson S., Gislason T, Maasaitta P, Myhre KL, et al. Effects and side-effects of surgery for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea – a systematic review.  Sleep. 2009; 32:27-36.

Basner RC. Continuous positive airway pressure for obstructive sleep apnea, New England Journal of Medicine; 2007, April 26; 356(17): 1751-8

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Manny Erlich

International Foundation of Employee Benefits - Certified Employee Benefits Specialist