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Common causes of snoring ─ and what you can do about it

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If you snore, you may assume it's really only a problem for your partner and not you. The truth is, snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can lead to poor sleep for both yourself and your loved one, which can lead to long-term health consequences. 

Not everyone who snores has OSA, but a sleep study can help determine if you have it. People with OSA are more likely to not feel rested after sleep, have daytime sleepiness (and increased risk of motor vehicle collisions), cardiovascular complications (including stroke), shorter lifespan, poor sleep for partners, and trouble with intimacy.

If you've been told your snoring is very loud and disruptive, or if you have disrupted sleep and frequently feel tired, contact your doctor. You may need a referral to a sleep specialist or other provider who can help you identify and address the underlying causes of your snores. Getting to the bottom of your symptoms can improve your well-being, help you feel well rested, and may even ease strain in your relationship!

Common causes of snoring and OSA

Most of us can imagine what snoring sounds like—that harsh breathing sound a person makes when they sleep. This happens because of the way air flows through their oral and nasal passages, causing the tissues to vibrate and make noise. While anyone can snore from time to time, research indicates about 40 percent of men and 24 percent of women are considered habitual snorers. Here are the most common reasons why snoring happens: 

  • Nasal problems affecting a person's airway, such as a deviated septum or chronic congestion
  • Alterations in your oral anatomy, including a low, thick and soft palate or large tongue
  • Sleep position 
  • Alcohol consumption (which relaxes your throat muscles and causes your airway to become more narrow as you sleep)

Being overweight or obese can also contribute to snoring problems because the excess soft tissue can alter the mechanics and position of your throat and make your throat narrower. In addition, OSA may be hereditary in some cases. In other words, if you come from a family of snorers, you may be more likely to snore, too.

Not sure if you have OSA? Here's a hint: If you frequently feel tired in the daytime or have the strong urge to nap, you may have disrupted sleep. A sleep study, which measures your oxygen levels and breathing while you sleep, allows your doctor to determine whether you have OSA. 

The bottom line: You should never feel embarrassed about snoring—just feel inspired to take action. Taking steps to resolve your snoring can make a huge difference in your health and quality of life. And if you have a partner, it can make a positive difference in his or her life, too. 

Some tips for improving your snoring

There are plenty of things you can do to improve your sleep quality, such as minimizing your alcohol intake and having a relaxing bedtime routine. Many of these habits can also improve your snoring, too. Other strategies you might find useful to reduce your snoring include:

  • Losing weight
  • Treating nasal congestion
  • Consulting with an ear, nose and throat doctor or plastic surgeon who can correct a deviated septum
  • Changing your sleeping position (e.g., not on your back)
  • Using certain sleeping devices, such as oral appliances or a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine

Need solutions to your snoring?

Contact SIU Medicine at 217-545-8000 if your snoring is disrupting you or your loved one. You both deserve quality rest, and getting to the bottom of your snoring issue can make a huge difference for you both. Call to schedule an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat doctor today. 

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