Have you been told that you’re a snorer – or does a snoring partner wake you up in the middle of the night? Virginia Skiba, M.D., a Henry Ford sleep medicine specialist, gives a crash course on this common sleep condition.
Q: What causes snoring?
A: "When you are sleeping, your entire body is relaxed. This creates a vibration in the back of your throat as you breathe that causes you to snore," says Dr. Skiba. Snoring can occur at any age. Even if you didn't snore as a child, it is possible you will later in life. About 40% of men and 24% of women snore at some point in their life.
Weather can also affect your snoring patterns. During allergy season, you may have a runny nose or congestion, both of which cause snoring. Snoring is also more common in people who are overweight, due to the excess tissue in the back of the throat. However, snoring is not limited to those who are overweight – snoring might run in your family. It also depends on your overall anatomy.
Q: What's the difference between snoring and sleep apnea?
A: If you experience sleep disturbances or daytime sleepiness, it might be sleep apnea. If you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), your relaxed muscles block the airways, making it difficult to breathe and putting serious stress on your heart.
It can be tempting to ignore snoring or assume it’s harmless – especially if you have been living with it for a long time. But if you don't get your sleep habits professionally checked out, you could be endangering yourself.
Dr. Skiba recommends seeking medical guidance for the following symptoms:
- Waking up during the night
- Lapses in breathing during sleep
- Using the restroom frequently throughout the night
- Waking up with headaches
- Feeling constantly tired
- Experiencing moodiness or depression
- Having difficulty thinking or paying attention
- Having high blood pressure
- Having AFib (atrial fibrillation, or a common type of irregular heartbeat)
Q: Can snoring be cured?
A: There are treatments that can help you – and your partner – achieve better sleep. Dr. Skiba shares her best tips to treat snoring:
- To reduce loudness, sleep on your side.
- Sleep with your torso elevated.
- Lose weight.
- Improve the flow through your nose (this may mean treating your nasal congestion or deviated septum).
- Quit smoking.
- Avoid muscle relaxers, opiates, alcohol and other things that cause muscles to relax more.
- Sleep with an oral device that moves your lower jaw forward, creating more space in your throat. Talk to your dentist about getting a device.
- You can also discuss surgical options with an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor.
And, most importantly, make sure your snoring is not sleep apnea. Discuss your sleeping habits with a doctor to see if a sleep study is needed to better understand your unique case.
Reviewed by Dr. Virginia Skiba, a sleep medicine specialist who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Centers in Grosse Pointe, Detroit and Sterling Heights.