Snoring is something that affects nearly everyone at some point in their lives, whether they are the snorers themselves or are being kept up all night by someone else’s snoring. Although snoring is often the butt of many jokes, it can indicate a more serious health problem—sleep apnea. Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, but those who do could be facing an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other health concerns. Why do people snore, and when does snoring suggest something more serious? Here is what you need to know.

How Snoring Happens

Snoring occurs when the structures in the upper airway vibrate in response to inhalation. When you’re sleeping, your muscles relax completely, and your muscle tone is reduced. As a result, the muscles in the airway can relax so much that they partially block it and slow the flow of oxygen to your body, which in turn causes the air you breathe to become turbulent. This bumpy air combines with the vibration of the structures in the airway to create the sound of snoring. Any part of that upper airway that does not have support from cartilage can vibrate, including the soft palate, tongue, tonsils, uvula, and pharyngeal wall.

Risk Factors for Snoring

Snoring can happen to anyone, but it is most common in men and in seniors. Some children are also habitual snorers, particularly when they have enlarged adenoids or tonsils. Some people only snore when they have a respiratory infection.

When Snoring Indicates Sleep Apnea

A small percentage of snorers actually have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea occurs when the airway becomes completely blocked by the relaxed muscles in the throat, causing the person to wake up to breathe again. Most people with sleep apnea not only snore but also make choking or gasping sounds at intervals through the night. Because the times in which they are awake are so short, they may not even know it is happening until a sleeping partner tells them.

If you’re concerned about your chronic snoring, set up an overnight sleep study with Sleep Dynamics in Central New Jersey. We’ll help you determine if you have sleep apnea and what steps to take next. To schedule an appointment, call (848) 217-0240.