Serious snoring over a period of time can compromise your health.

What is snoring?

Despite being a frequent source of comedy, snoring is no laughing matter. It can result in daytime sleepiness and impaired performance, and indicate a more serious condition called sleep apnea. The raspy sound you make while asleep is caused when your breathing is impeded by a narrowing or partial blockage of the airways at the back of your mouth, throat or nose. This obstruction results in increased air turbulence when breathing in, causing the soft tissues in your upper airways to vibrate.

What causes snoring?

Snoring is common, especially among older people and those who are overweight. Allergies or sinus problems also can contribute to a narrowing of the airways, leading to snoring. Alcohol or sedatives taken shortly before sleep also promote snoring.

About one-third of all pregnant women begin snoring for the first time during their second trimester. If you snore while pregnant, let your doctor know. Snoring in pregnancy can be associated with high blood pressure and can have a negative effect on your baby’s growth and development.

Snoring also can be a problem in children. Roughly 10 to 15 percent of young children snore on a regular basis, which is typically caused by enlarged adenoids and tonsils. Several studies show that children who snore are more likely to score lower on tests that measure intelligence, memory and attention span. These children also have more problematic behavior, including hyperactivity.

What are the symptoms of snoring?

Even if you don’t experience these breathing pauses, snoring can still be a problem for you as well as for your bed partner. You should see your physician if you are often tired during the day, don’t feel that you sleep well or wake up gasping for air.

One study found that older adults who snored six to seven nights a week were twice as likely to report being extremely sleepy during the day than those who never snored. The more people snored, the more daytime fatigue they reported. That sleepiness may help explain why snorers are more likely to be in car crashes than people who don’t snore.

In addition, snoring increases the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. One study found that women who snored regularly were twice as likely as those who did not snore to develop diabetes, even if they were not overweight. Other studies suggest that regular snoring may raise the lifetime risk of developing high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke.

How does Ohio State diagnose snoring?

Because snoring is a primary symptom of sleep apnea, your physician will focus on finding out whether you might have sleep apnea. He or she will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history. Because a physical exam and medical history cannot completely determine if you have sleep apnea, a sleep study almost always will be done if your doctor suspects the condition.

How does Ohio State treat snoring?

Snoring may be relieved by losing weight, refraining from use of tobacco, sleeping on the side rather than on the back or elevating the head while sleeping. Treating chronic congestion and refraining from alcohol or sedative use before sleeping also may decrease snoring. In some adults, snoring can be relieved by the use of dental appliances that reposition the soft tissues in the mouth. Although numerous over-the-counter nasal strips and sprays claim to relieve snoring, no scientific evidence supports those statements.

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