This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation
Learn how serious your snoring really is.
Snoring can do a lot more harm than just annoy your partner—it can lead to poor sleep quality and quantity. About 90 million Americans suffer from snoring; as many as half of those may have the sleep disorder Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). While OSA almost always causes loud and regular snoring, just because you snore doesn’t mean that you have OSA.
Sleep apnea is a serious condition in which your breathing is obstructed, causing you to wake up in order to start breathing again. Regular snoring doesn’t typically wake you up. One way to tell the difference between snoring and OSA is to look for the symptoms of sleep apnea: waking up in the middle of the night gasping for air, continual sleepiness during the day, and always snoozing with your mouth open.
Another way to differentiate between regular snoring and sleep apnea is the type of snoring: Those with sleep apnea tend to snore more regularly and loudly, plus they often gasp for air in their sleep and you can sometimes hear them momentarily stop breathing. People with OSA have more of a choking sound to their snores.
Aside from OSA, these are a few other reasons that you may be snoring:
- Age: Once you reach middle age, your throat becomes narrower and its muscle tone decreases.
- Body Structure: Men are more likely to snore because their air passages are narrower. (Scientists aren't sure exactly why men have narrower air passages—it appears to be a physiological difference that occurs from birth.) Other physical characteristics that can lead to snoring include a narrow throat (if you have trouble swallowing, this could be a sign that you have a narrow throat), a cleft palate, and enlarged adenoids.
- Sinus and Nasal Congestion: When airways are blocked with mucus, that makes breathing difficult, which causes snoring.
- Being Overweight: Poor muscle tone and fatty tissue around the neck and throat can lead to snoring.
- Smoking, Alcohol, and Medications: These can all increase muscle relaxation, leading to snoring.
- Sleep Position: Snoozing on your back can cause the flesh in your throat to relax, blocking the airway.