Men's Health, Women's Health Lindsay Guinaugh | 8 years ago

Don’t Ignore the Snore – It Could Indicate a Health Problem

Snoring may be more common than you think: nearly half of us snore when we sleep. While some snore only during certain situations – like when allergies flare up – habitual snoring could be the sign of more significant health concerns.

What Is Snoring?

Snoring is noisy breathing during sleep. The noise is created when the free flow of air through the passages at the back of the mouth and nose are obstructed. Snoring happens when the tongue and upper throat hit the soft palate and uvula (that little thing that hangs in the back of your throat), which causes the vibration.

Who Snores?

Snoring affects approximately 90 million American adults of all ages and genders – 37 million on a regular basis. Forty-five percent of adults snore and 25 percent of those are habitual snorers. Problematic snoring is more common in men and can often worsen with age. Snoring can also be hereditary and run in families.

What Causes Snoring?

A number of factors and conditions can contribute to habitual snoring:
  • Poor muscle tone in the tongue and throat
  • Nasal congestion or obstruction
  • Excessive throat or neck tissue, including enlarged tonsils and adenoids
  • Being overweight
  • Sleep posture – lying flat on your back promotes snoring
  • Allergies
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

What Are the Health Risks?

“Snoring can disrupt normal sleep quality for you and your bed partner,” said Dr. Erin Haynes, DO, at Carolinas HealthCare System’s Charlotte Medical Clinic in Mint Hill. Dr. Haynes notes that chronic headaches, mood, memory problems and daytime fatigue are some of the health concerns associated with snoring.

Snoring and Sleep Apnea

“Snoring may also be a sign of sleep apnea, a more serious sleep disorder that includes pauses in breathing or instances of shallow or infrequent breathing during sleep,” said Dr. Haynes. People who snore typically suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, the most common type of sleep apnea, caused by an obstruction of the upper airway. “Some of the pauses in breathing – or, the ‘apnea’ – can last longer than 10 seconds and can occur up to 30 times an hour,” Dr. Haynes said. “Breathing will repeatedly stop and start throughout the night. Often a shortness of breath will wake people from their sleep, so achieving a restful night of sleep is impossible.” Sleep apnea can cause serious health problems, including low blood oxygen levels which may lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.

When to Seek Help

“Habitual snorers should seek help from their primary care doctor right away, especially if they have concerns about sleeplessness, concentration, depression and irritability,” said Dr. Haynes. During your visit, your doctor will examine your nose, mouth, throat, palate and neck, to determine the root cause of your snoring. Your doctor may also refer you to a sleep specialist for a home- or clinic-based sleep test to learn more about your sleep and snoring patterns. Carolinas HealthCare System is committed to making it easy to keep you and your family healthy. To learn more about how we make health easy for you, visit CarolinasHealthCare/CareMadeEasy.