Health Care

When to Seek Help for Snoring

Man sleeping on his back in a bed.

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Occasional snoring is usually harmless. But how do you know when your snoring has gone from bothersome to something more serious? From sleepiness you can’t shake off to health concerns like sleep apnea, we’re here to help you understand how snoring can keep you from living your best life — and when it’s time to talk with a doctor.

What is Snoring?

Snoring is a vibrating, rumbling, whistling or snorting sound caused when your airway is partially blocked while sleeping. Nearly everyone snores from time to time, like when you feel stuffy from seasonal allergies or have a cold. But heavy, regular snoring can also be caused by sleep apnea, a condition where your breathing stops and starts while you sleep.

For millions of Americans, obstructive sleep apnea causes loud, disruptive snoring. It can lead to health problems like high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, heart attack and stroke — especially if it’s left untreated for a long period of time.

Risk Factors

We all snore from time to time, but men are more likely to snore than women — and to experience more serious health conditions as a result. So, it’s important to remind the men in your life not to assume severe snoring is harmless.

You are also more likely to snore if you are overweight, experience chronic nasal problems, have a narrow airway or have a family history of sleep apnea.

When to See a Provider for Snoring

Though you can’t hear yourself snore, there are several ways to learn if your snoring is severe and should be evaluated by a doctor. First, ask your spouse if they notice you stop breathing, begin to choke or gasp for air while you sleep.

You can also pay attention to how you feel throughout the day.

Look for signs like:

  • Dry mouth or sore throat
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Irritability or sudden mood changes
  • Memory problems or lack of focus
  • Morning headaches

If your snoring is severe — especially if you start and stop breathing throughout the night or regularly wake up exhausted or irritable — it might be time to see a doctor.

Diagnosing Sleep Issues and Disorders

Before you see your doctor, it’s a good idea to make a list of any medications you take and jot down any questions you have. That will help you maximize your time with the doctor and ensure you don’t leave without getting the answers you need.

During your initial appointment, your care team will talk with you about your symptoms, ask about your health history and perform a physical exam.

If more information is needed to pinpoint the cause of your snoring, your doctor may also recommend:

  • Imaging tests to check the structure of your airways
  • Sleep studies to gather insights about your sleep patterns, oxygen level, heart rate, breathing rate, eye and leg movements and brain waves

Treatments for Snoring

As we’ve seen, persistent snoring can be troublesome, but you can find relief with one or more of the following methods:

Lifestyle Changes

Your doctor will start by recommending lifestyle changes to help improve your sleep, including:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Limiting alcohol and sedatives
  • Losing weight
  • Quitting smoking
  • Sleeping on your side instead of your back
  • Treating congestion
  • Wearing nasal strips or a mouthguard

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Devices

If you’re diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, the most common treatment is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. This device is a mask you wear over your nose and mouth while you sleep that pushes air into your airway to keep it open throughout the night.

Surgery

In cases where there is a structural issue or excess tissue that’s causing snoring, doctors may recommend surgery. Some examples would be surgery to remove your tonsils and adenoids or repair of a deviated septum.

Rise and Shine, Well-Rested

If snoring, restless leg syndrome or another condition is holding you back from a good night’s sleep, you can rest easy knowing that AdventHealth is here to help. Accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, our compassionate team is ready with superior sleep care.

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