Whether we want to admit it or not, nearly half of us - about 45% - snore sometimes, and about one in four snore almost all the time.
Snoring can be bothersome to your partner, but for some it can be a serious health concern. Snoring can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a common medical condition causes people to stop breathing for at least 10 seconds to up to a minute or longer, multiple times a night. Sleep apnea is estimated to affect as much as 20 percent of the population, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
What Causes Snoring?
Common causes of snoring include:
- Later stages of pregnancy
- Irregularly shaped bones in the face
- Swelling of the tonsils and adenoids
- Smoking or alcohol consumption
- Antihistamine or sleeping pill use
- Sinus or nasal congestion
- Large base of the tongue or unusually large tongue and small mouth
- Congestion from allergies or a cold
- Swollen areas inside the mouth (including the uvula and soft palate)
Snoring - when it's not a symptom of a medical problem like sleep apnea - may not pose any physical risk in itself.
"Some people have primary snoring, which is when they have a deviated septum or their anatomy is poor, but that doesn't mean they collapse their airway or their airway stops," says Tapan Desai, MD, a pulmonologist and sleep medicine specialist with Franciscan Physician Network Munster Medical Center.
Does Snoring Mean I Have Sleep Apnea?
While people living with sleep apnea typically snore, just because you or your partner snores does not mean you have sleep apnea.
"Snoring is not an indicator of sleep apnea. Snoring is just vibration of air flow," says Dr. Desai. "People think, 'I got sleep apnea when I snore.' That's not necessarily true.
"You can have sleep apnea without snoring or you could have snoring without sleep apnea. They're independent."
When Should I Be Concerned About Sleep Apnea and Snoring?
"There are four indicators, high blood pressure, the presence of snoring, witnessed apneic episodes, and a neck size greater than 17," Dr. Desai said. "If you have two of those, that's a high predictor for having sleep apnea."
Snoring accompanied by breathing stoppages, gasping or choking in your sleep can be an indicator of possible sleep apnea and should be discussed with your doctor.
Learn more about sleep disorders treatment at Franciscan Health.