Is Your Snoring the Sign of Something More Serious?

February 12, 2014
by Michael Barber
Is Your Snoring the Sign of Something More Serious?

According to Statistic Brain, 30 percent of those 30 and older snore, and as the age increases, so does the percentage. Could your snoring be a sign of something more serious?

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What Causes Snoring?

Let’s start by looking at common causes of snoring:

  • Obstructed nasal airways: If your snoring is intermittent, it could be caused by seasonal allergies or a cold that causes congestion and blocks airways in the nasal passage.
  • Bulky throat tissues: This is often caused by large tonsils and adenoids (especially in kids).
  • Alcohol consumption: Drinking too many alcoholic beverages before bedtime can cause the throat to relax causing blocked airways.
  • Sleep apnea: A serious condition, sleep apnea causes you to actually stop breathing for short periods, causing your body to not get enough oxygen and to not feel well rested. There are two main types:
    • Obstructive sleep apnea that is caused by relaxed throat muscles.
    • Central sleep apnea caused by improper signals from your brain.

Who Is at Risk for Sleep Apnea?

Though sleep apnea can happen to anyone at any age, there are some who are more at risk than others. They especially include those with the following traits:

  • Over 40
  • Large tonsils
  • Large tongue
  • Large neck (16 inches or more for women and 17 inches or more for men)
  • Male
  • Overweight

How Can I Tell if I Have Sleep Apnea?

If you’re worried that your snoring is a sign of sleep apnea, there are a few symptoms you can watch out for.

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Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

  • Pauses in snoring and breathing followed by gasps of breath. Since you may not be aware of this, see if someone can stay with you while you sleep to observe. Alternatively, record yourself sleeping and see if that happens, especially since you might not wake up when these episodes occur. You could also set up a camera to record yourself sleeping (such as one that can see infrared light).
  • Loud snoring that persists throughout the night.
  • Being tired during the day, despite getting proper sleep consistently every night.

Symptoms of Central Sleep Apnea

  • Waking up often throughout the night.
  • Feeling the need to pee often during the night.
  • Being tired during the day.
  • Waking up with a headache early in the morning.
  • Having a poor memory.
  • Mood problems.

What Should I Do if I Suspect Sleep Apnea?

If you think you are concerned about your snoring, the best thing to do is to make an appointment with your doctor. If you’re concerned and do not want to wait till your doctor has an opening, an urgent care center is a great way to get some answers sooner rather than later.

Doctors and PAs at walk-in clinics can help determine through an initial consultation whether it’s worth it for you to make an appointment with a sleep specialist and possibly perform a nocturnal polysomnography or an at-home sleep test, which can confirm the diagnosis.

Even if you find that it’s not sleep apnea, you may get help at urgent care for what you can do to reduce your snoring and get a more restful sleep.

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