If you or a loved one struggle with occasional snoring, you’re not alone. As much as 90 million adults in America, 40 percent of men and 24 percent of women, are in the same boat. Snoring can be uncomfortable, and seriously disruptive both for your own sleep and your partner’s. Men are more likely to snore, at least up to the age of about 70, but women also snore. Snoring can also run in families, but if children are regular snorers it’s usually a sign of physical abnormalities, such as enlarged tonsils.
What Makes Snoring Worse?
Snoring happens when the muscles in your throat relax and vibrate as you breathe in your sleep. It can happen at any stage of sleep and regardless of whether you breathe through your mouth, nose, or both.
Snoring often worsens with weight gain, because the excess weight around the neck, larger tongue and tonsils narrow the airways further. Snoring also tends to increase with age. Alcohol relaxes the muscles further and usually worsens snoring. Smoking is another culprit, as is sleep position. For instance, sleeping on your back can make the relaxed tissues in your upper airways move backward to partially obstruct your airways, and it is another common cause of snoring.
When Is Snoring Normal?
While occasional snoring is normal, it is sometimes a sign of underlying medical issues. A deviated septum can cause snoring, but this is considered completely normal. You may also have noticed that you snore more during allergy season, as well as when you suffer from a cold or respiratory illness. This is due to the temporary inflammation in your nose and throat and not a cause for concern. Even normal, occasional snoring may cause you to wake up with a sore, irritated throat or a dry mouth.
When Is Snoring Concerning?
When should you be concerned about your own or your partners snoring? When it gets loud, loud snoring is rarely normal. The same can be said for habitual snoring. Both of these signs can point to sleep apnea, heart disease, diabetes, strokes, or mental health concerns.
If you or your partner exhibit any of the signs below, it’s worth seeing a doctor:
- Pauses in breathing at night
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory loss
- Frequent or loud snoring
- Waking up gasping for breath
- Restless sleep
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
- Morning headaches
- General irritability
If you or your partner snore heavily you might want to ask your doctor about obstructive sleep apnea. This serious sleep disorder causes a temporary pause in your breathing while you are asleep. A warning sign for obstructive sleep apnea is excessive daytime sleepiness even when you’ve had a good night’s sleep. Another sign is if while snoring you also make gasping sounds, or sound like you are choking. Sleep apnea is diagnosed either by in-lab sleep studies or at home sleep testing. Treatment can consist of oral appliance therapy, surgery, or CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure).
So is snoring normal? It depends. Infrequent, light snoring may very well be normal. But if you or your partner’s sleep is affected, and the snoring is loud and habitual, it’s worth seeing a doctor.