Snoring is the sound of turbulence and soft tissue vibration in the back of the throat. The sound of snoring generally does not come from the nose. Snoring is a common and familiar sound. You may not even know that you snore, because it happens while you’re sleeping.
When you hear someone snore, the sound you’re hearing is actually turbulent air flowing through a narrowed, or partially obstructed airway. (1)
During sleep, the muscles in the back of the throat relax. When this happens, the diameter of the airway decreases while air turbulence increases. This means that when the tissues in the neck and airway relax, they constrict and partially block the airway. (2) When air moves through the constricted space, the tissues vibrate and you hear the snoring sound.
Since just about everyone has these soft tissues as part of their anatomy, you may wonder if everyone snores. Although snoring is common, not everyone does it.
Snoring is a worldwide finding. About half of all adults in the United States snore at least occasionally. Many adults are not even aware that they snore because it happens during sleep when awareness is limited. (3) Children also snore. So do many other species of animals. Bulldogs are infamous for being loud sleepers.
Do you snore? There is a snoring app for that.
Learn more about why people snore.
Snoring alone may be fairly harmless. Many times it’s the snorer’s partner that is the one losing sleep.
A minimal amount of snore sounds are considered normal, especially during times of illness when the airways are often swollen and stuffy.
However, snoring can sometimes be a sign of a more serious condition called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
If you or your partner think you may have sleep apnea. Take the free assessment here to see if you are at risk. Lunella is a home sleep test that can be taken from the comforts of your own home. Provided with this service is consultation with a sleep specialist. The main benefit of this service compared to others is the one time single use. You can rest assured you are the only person using the test.
Although snoring and OSA are often combined, OSA differs from snoring. OSA is a serious condition that needs to be treated and snoring can actually be a sign of having OSA. As mentioned, snoring alone is pretty harmless.
Sleep apnea is characterized by long pauses of breathing during sleep. These pauses can last for several seconds to even minutes, and someone with sleep apnea may awaken themselves by gasping for air. Click here to take a free one minute online assessment to gauge your risk level of OSA.
During these pauses in breathing blood-oxygen levels fall and this puts extra stress on the heart. If untreated, sleep apnea can lead to irregular heartbeat, heart disease, diabetes, heart attack, or stroke. It can also be a contributing factor to obesity.
Additionally, the harsh sound of snoring can interrupt sleeping patterns and lead to excessive fatigue and loss of focus. This can be extremely problematic in the workplace, while driving, while operating heavy machinery, or just trying to do everyday tasks.
The mask, which generally covers the nose, is worn during sleep. It applies a set pressure into the lungs, keeping the tissues in the airway from collapsing, which allows the air to flow smoothly.
Unfortunately, some patients with sleep apnea find it difficult to sleep while wearing a CPAP mask due to comfort or claustrophobia. If this is the case for you and comfort is the problem, you may be able to try another kind of mask or device. If it’s due to claustrophobia, talk to your sleep doctor to help you find a solution.
For some people unable to tolerate CPAP, a mouth guard and a plan for weight loss may be the next treatment.
As mentioned, a CPAP machine is a treatment for sleep apnea and isn’t generally needed for someone without sleep apnea that only snores.
There are other ways to treat snoring, some of which include just making lifestyle changes.
If you snore, it will help tremendously to identify the cause of why you’re snoring so you know which treatment will help to correct it.
If either you or your partner thinks that you may have sleep apnea, it’s important to speak with a doctor. You may need further testing, such as a sleep study. Sleep studies are often done in sleep clinics where professionals can monitor your breathing and blood-oxygen levels. There are also at-home sleep studies being given.
Even if it’s not sleep apnea, you may still want to treat your snoring. You might just get a better night’s sleep and your partner will thank you for it.
© 2021 American Sleep Association.