Snoring: when should you see a doctor?
Snoring has been used as a comedic device in cartoons, nursery rhymes and sitcoms for years, and we’ve all had a chuckle. However, because of these light-hearted scenes, it’s easy for us to dismiss the seriousness of snoring in our sleep. Other than our partner suffering through the noise all night, it’s easy to underestimate snoring’s impact on our health and sleep.
The ‘Snoring Spectrum’
Snoring is the unconscious reverberation sound that is made when the muscles of the mouth and throat relax during sleep, and restrict the airway. It is an indication of sleep disordered breathing and can be disruptive to the quality of sleep a person gets.
General snoring is not an uncommon occurrence among adults. About 40% of men and around 30% of women snore occasionally, with around 15% of the total population snoring more frequently during the week1. There is a scale of magnitude: at one end of the spectrum is simple snoring, at the other is snoring as a symptom of sleep apnea.
What causes snoring?
As mentioned above, when your muscles relax too much when lying down to sleep, your breathing becomes restricted through both your throat and your nose. This airflow turbulence causes the tissue in your airways to vibrate, making that signature snoring noise.
If the airflow gets blocked altogether, you will stop breathing for a second, and your brain triggers your throat to choke or cough to clear it. This subconscious reaction is what can disrupt your sleeping patterns and quality of sleep, especially if it’s occurring many times during the night for an ongoing period of time.
Once your sleep quality is affected, you may find that you’re waking up, feeling like you haven’t slept well at all. We’ve all had those days, where a lack of sleep can cause headaches, irritability and fatigue. But if this is over a prolonged period of time, it can start affecting your health.
When searching for a cure for snoring, it helps to know more about what causes snoring in the first place. Generally, the causes of snoring can be classified into two groups: temporary and structural factors.
Temporary causes of snoring, as the name implies, are only short-term and usually go away over time – along with the snoring itself. These can include:
- sedative medication
- consumption of alcohol
- excessive smoking
- seasonal allergies
- swollen tonsils or adenoids, especially in children
- sleeping position
- the cold or flu.
These factors are not permanent, and snoring should cease as these conditions change.
However, structural factors are more long-term, and include:
- Throat muscle weakness, causing the throat to close during sleep
- Misaligned jaw, often caused by tension in the muscles
- Fat gathering in and around the throat
- Obstruction in the nasal passageway
- Overall nose shape
- Tissues at the top of airways touching each other, causing vibrations
- Nasal and sinus problems
- Excessive weight and obesity
- Ageing, as your throat becomes narrower and the muscle tone decreases
- The shape of your head and neck, as it may create a smaller than normal airway
Your Doctor or Sleep Professional can help you understand these better and determine which factors are contributing to your snoring (more about this below).
How to stop snoring?
We understand that snoring can be frustrating, and you want to find a solution for your snoring.
There are a wide range of effective treatments, however it’s important to understand the specific causes of your situation to find the best one for you. Once you identify the reasons and factors behind why you snore, you can find the best solution to help get a better night’s sleep- for both you and everyone around you!
The use of a CPAP machine and CPAP mask is currently one of the most effective treatments for snoring, especially if it’s linked to the common sleep disorder, Sleep Apnea.
CPAP involves the use of a continuous flow of pressurised air through a mask and into your airway. This airflow enters your nose and throat, preventing the airways from collapsing when the muscles in your throat relax during the night. This stops the vibration and blockages, preventing snoring.
Another potential way to stop snoring is the use of a custom-made Dental Plate which is placed in the mouth during sleep. This causes the lower jaw and tongue to be held in a forward position, opening up your airways and preventing the restriction of air through the throat. This stops you from snoring.
There are a few additional ways to stop snoring, however it’s best to consult your Doctor or Sleep Professional first. They can help correctly identify the best potential solution for you.
What else can you do about snoring?
Of course, seeing a doctor may not the first thing that comes to mind if you notice you or your partner have snoring issues. There are actually many factors that contribute to snoring, and thus many things you can make to stop or alleviate snoring. Knowledge is power! To find out more, you can read our extended article on how to stop snoring.
Why Should I See A Doctor?
It can seem trivial to see a Doctor about snoring, however snoring may affect the quality of your sleep and consequently how you feel each day, and snoring is one of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea.
If snoring is affecting you or your partners wellbeing it is important to consult your doctor and have it assessed.
When To See A Doctor
Here are some general signs indicating it is time to book an appointment2.
- Very loud snoring that can be heard in the next room
- Continually gasping or choking when in bed
- Ongoing insomnia
- Chronic feeling of being tired every day
- Considerable mood swings due to being tired everyday
- Waking up at unusual times
- Awaking abruptly with a dry throat often
- Experiencing pain which prevents sleep
A healthcare professional can check these symptoms and provide advice on any next steps required.
How a Free Sleep Assessment can help you
If you are experiencing problems sleeping, you may wish to consider undertaking a free online sleep assessment to better understand how to improve your restful state and your overall health. The assessment only takes 60 seconds and asks you a series of simple questions designed to help you uncover the cause, then conveniently sends the results to you via an email.
You can access the Sleep Assessment here:
 Sleep Health Foundation, Australia. ‘Snoring’. http://sleephealthfoundation.org.au/pdfs/Snoring.pdf. Accessed 24 June, 2017.