Is Snoring Serious?

Maureen Robb's picture
By Maureen Robb on May 1, 2018

Do you snore, and is it a problem?

If you’re not sure, you might want to find out.

Forty percent of people around the world snore, and 10 percent have sleep apnea, a snoring condition that causes repeated interruptions in breathing as you sleep.

Sleep apnea can lead to heart disease, stroke or other complications.

Most people, however, don’t realize they’re snoring unless someone complains.


What causes snoring?

Gaining weight is a common culprit.

“Typically as we gain weight, we develop airway narrowing,” said Frank Biscardi, M.D., with Carilion Clinic Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine. “Even a modest amount of extra weight can do it.”

Besides weight gain, other causes include:

  • Alcohol
  • Sedating drugs like Benadryl and sleeping pills
  • A deviated septum
  • Large tonsils
  • A narrow airway
  • A large tongue

Signs of Snoring

What are the signs that you could be snoring?

“If you wake up and don’t feel particularly rested, or if you feel tired during the day, it could be due to snoring,” Dr. Biscardi said. “It’s probably just uncomplicated, or benign snoring, but it may be something more.

“If you wake up and feel as though you haven’t slept, or are extremely tired during the day, you should get it checked,” he added.

Your doctor can give you a physical exam to make sure that trouble sleeping isn’t due to another problem, like nasal polyps or allergies.

Getting a Sleep Study

The next step would be to see a sleep specialist and get a referral for a sleep study. You’d spend the night in a bedroom-like facility at a sleep center, and your breathing, heart rate, brain activity and other functions would be monitored.

More studies are also being done at home with portable equipment.

“Almost everyone who has significant sleep apnea snores and stops breathing off and on during the night,” noted Dr. Biscardi. “The snoring stops and then resumes, often with a snort.”

Sleep apnea is caused by the same things that can cause benign snoring, but sleep apnea is more intense.

Untreated sleep apnea can also lead to serious conditions such as:

  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Strokes
  • Heart or coronary artery disease
  • Car accidents caused by falling asleep at the wheel

Treating a Sleep Problem

What are your treatment options?

Weight loss, if extra weight is the cause of your sleep apnea.

If the cause of your snoring is a deviated septum or large tonsils, you could be referred to have those problems addressed.

If it’s sleep apnea, you may be asked to wear a breathing mask connected to a CPAP machine when you sleep. It will exert continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to keep your airways open.

“CPAP is not for people who just snore,” said Dr. Biscardi. “It’s for sleep apnea.”

The thing is: anybody can snore, even a child. But in children, the cause is usually tonsils, large adenoids, seasonal allergies or strep throat.

So if you, or someone you love, seems to have a problem, you do have recourse. Sleep apnea can be easily diagnosed, and treatment is available.
Did you know that how you wake up could affect the quality of your day?