Up to 90 million Americans report snoring at one time or another, with 37 million saying they snore regularly. Snoring is most common in adult men; however, people of all sexes and ages can experience the sensation. Even children snore! But while snoring is an especially common occurrence, it is also one of the most ignored. Many people don’t realize they snore—as it happens while they’re asleep—or ignore the condition completely.
While snoring may not seem like a big deal, it can be a major sign of something more serious occurring in your body, like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Along those lines, snoring can also interrupt sleep, impacting your overall wellness in a number of ways. Proper screening and awareness of the occurrence are absolutely essential in order to help people get the care they need. Let’s dive into exactly what snoring is, signs that your snoring could be something worse, and how to stop it.
A Definition of Snoring
Snoring is noisy breathing that occurs while you sleep. This rattling and harsh breathing is caused by insufficient airflow, which often happens when the throat muscles naturally relax, the tongue slips backward, and the throat narrows throughout the night. Similarly, any other obstruction of the free flow of air at the back of your throat or nose can cause you to snore. This could include things like a common cold, a sinus infection, allergies, or tonsillitis.
Nearly everyone snores every once in a while; however, it can easily turn into a chronic issue that affects your sleep, your overall health, and even your relationships, as it can be a significant nuisance to your partner.
A Definition of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
One of the most common conditions associated with snoring is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a sleep disorder that occurs when there’s a decrease or complete interruption in airflow despite an ongoing effort to breathe. Twenty-five million Americans are expected to have OSA, and an estimated 80 percent of them remain undiagnosed and untreated.
Not only does this condition often result in daily challenges, but it is also associated with a number of life-threatening or chronic health conditions. For example, obstructive sleep apnea is associated with the following health concerns:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
Because OSA is associated with so many chronic concerns and can impact so much of an individual’s life, it is especially essential for those with OSA to get the accurate diagnosis and treatment they need to lead happy and healthy lives.
Signs That Your Snoring Could Be Sleep Apnea
There is a variety of telling signs associated with sleep apnea, including loud snoring. Not all snorers have OSA, but if you experience the following symptoms alongside loud snoring, it could be a sign of the sleep disorder:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty concentrating throughout the day
- Breathing pauses during sleep
- Restless sleep
- Grinding your teeth
- Morning headaches
- Sore throat
- Gasping or choking at night
- Chest pain
Those with OSA often experience snoring followed by long periods of silence when breathing either stops or becomes so thin it nearly stops. It may even cause you to wake up with a gasp or loud snorting sound. If you experience one or more of these symptoms on top of snoring, it may be necessary to talk to your doctor about it. They’ll be able to screen you for OSA and identify a treatment plan for you if necessary.
How to Stop Snoring
Depending on what is causing your snoring, there are a number of treatments that can help you stop. On top of OSA, there are a few risk factors that may be the underlying cause of snoring, including the following:
- Sleep deprivation
- An issue with the structure of your mouth, nose, or throat
- Drinking alcohol close to bedtime
Speaking with your doctor can help you not only identify the root cause of your snoring but also find a treatment plan that is right for you and your lifestyle. Here are just a few of the treatment options that your doctor could recommend to you.
If you’re overweight, losing weight could be the answer to your snoring. This will help you reduce the amount of tissue in the throat, therefore helping you open the airway. Reducing your overall calorie intake, getting regular exercise, and seeing a doctor or nutritionist can all help you do just that.
Sleeping on Your Side
Sleeping on your back could cause the tongue to move to the back of your throat and partially block airflow. On the other hand, sleeping on your side could help open the airway.
Using Nasal Strips or a Nasal Dilator
Stick-on nasal strips are a great option for those who just need to reduce their snoring and aren’t experiencing a major underlying problem. A nasal dilator may also help decrease resistance and open the airway, making it much easier to breathe.
Using an OSA Treatment
Treatment options like an oral appliance, CPAP machine, surgery, or palatal implants can all help address snoring while also treating the cause behind it: OSA. Your doctor may recommend just one or a combination of these based on the severity of your sleep apnea and long-term goals.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor if you have any reason to suspect OSA or want to stop snoring. Not only could loud snoring be a sign of a serious condition, but it could also be impacting your life in a few significant ways, including your relationships and sleep quality.