November 01, 2021 3 min read
Snoring is a common problem, with half of all adults reporting that they snore at least occasionally. And exactly because it’s so widespread, most people look at snoring as something trivial, with snorers even being the brunt of countless jokes.
But snoring is neither trivial nor funny.
At the very least, frequent snoring can disrupt the snorer’s (and their bed partner’s) sleep. At worst, it can be a sign of sleep apnea. Knowing when to see a doctor about your snoring can help improve your sleep and protect your health.
Keep reading to find out when your snoring warrants a visit to your doctor and why.
Snoring is the snorting/rattling noise some people make during sleep. It happens when structures inside the upper airway (soft palate, tonsils, adenoids, and tongue) collapse and obstruct airflow. This obstruction causes these structures to vibrate against each other as air struggles to get through, producing that grating sound.
While there is no one cause of snoring, risk factors that can make people more prone to snoring include alcohol and sedative intake, sleeping on your back, having bulky throat tissue, enlarged tonsils, nasal congestion, low muscle tone, and obesity.
Occasional snoring due to upper respiratory tract infections or seasonal allergies is usually nothing to worry about. But habitual snoring — defined as snoring at least three nights a week — can indicate sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder.
Sleep apnea causes repeated pauses in breathing during sleep, sometimes hundreds of times per night. These pauses can last 10 seconds or more at a time, or until breathing reflexes cause the person to gasp for air. The sufferer usually isn’t aware of these episodes, but they may notice symptoms during the day:
Untreated, sleep apnea can lead to heart and lung problems, an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, and poor mental health.
But even if snoring isn’t a result of sleep apnea, it may be affecting the quality of your and your bed partner’s sleep. Poor sleep puts both of you at risk of accidents, poor concentration, hypertension, and even type II diabetes.
If you snore three nights a week or more, you should see a doctor since habitual snoring can be the first symptom of sleep apnea. Also, consider seeing a healthcare provider if you snore loudly or if your snoring is accompanied by daytime fatigue, frequent headaches, and trouble focusing despite you getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
Your doctor may then refer you to a sleep specialist who will perform a sleep study, also called polysomnography. During a sleep study, doctors record eye and leg movement, brain waves, blood oxygen levels, and heart and breathing rates using sensors. This can be done at a sleep center or hospital to diagnose sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.
If you don’t suffer from sleep apnea but simple snoring, a sleep specialist can provide you with tools to help you manage your problem better.
Mild and infrequent snoring is easy to manage with simple interventions. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends conservative approaches to all snorers, which include:
If your snoring doesn’t stop after these simple measures, your doctor may recommend sleep apnea mouthpieces. Some of these are also available over-the-counter to help treat primary snoring. See our collection of our clinically tested Good Morning Snore Solution tongue-stabilizing devices if you want to try over-the-counter snore solutions.
Sleep and Sleep Disorder Statistics. American Sleep Association. Available athttps://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/sleep-statistics/
Snoring. Cleveland Clinic. Last reviewed May 2021. Available at
Cumpston E, Chen P. Sleep Apnea Syndrome. [Updated 2021 Mar 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK564431/
Snoring. What is snoring? American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Published November 2020. Available athttps://sleepeducation.org/sleep-disorders/snoring/
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