Snoring is more than an annoying noise people make when they sleep. The harsh, low-pitched sound comes from the upper airway when it is partially blocked. The flow of air causes tissue in the back of the throat and mouth to vibrate. The noise then comes through the nose, mouth or both the nose and mouth.
If you have ever slept near someone who snores, you know that the sound of snoring can disturb the quality of sleep for others. Some people snore so loudly they wake themselves up.
Light to moderate snoring is common in people of all ages and is generally not a cause for concern. Severe snoring can be a sign of a much more serious problem. About half of people who snore loudly have obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that can disrupt your quality of sleep and lead to long-term health problems.
Sleep apnea occurs when the airway becomes fully blocked and oxygen cannot reach the lungs and bloodstream. People with sleep apnea often make loud choking noises as they sleep and may stop breathing for short periods of time. If you think you may have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor or get tested at an AASM accredited sleep center.
People are more likely to snore as they get older. About 24 percent of adult women and 40 percent of adult men are habitual snorers. Snoring appears to run in families. Your likelihood of snoring increases with weight gain, pregnancy or use of alcohol or tobacco.
Behavioral and lifestyle changes can help some but not all people reduce the severity of snoring. Try sleeping on your side instead of your back. Losing weight can also help with snoring. Avoid alcohol, smoking, muscle relaxants and medications that are known to increase snoring.