Snoring: Serious or Merely Annoying?

Man Snoring“Laugh and the world laughs with you; snore and you sleep alone,” said British novelist Anthony Burgess, who may or may not have been speaking from experience.

Lori Valentine, RN, respiratory therapist and director of Memorial’s Home Services Durable Medical Equipment, explains that snoring is caused by a collapse of the upper airway, which can happen because of excess tissue in the upper neck area or a loosening of muscle in the neck area that causes an obstruction.

Consequences of snoring can range from annoying to more serious:

  • Your partner makes you sleep on the couch every night.
  • You suffer from sleepiness or irritability during the day.
  • You have trouble concentrating.
  • Your breathing stops and starts periodically through the night, which undermines sleep quality and indicates sleep apnea.

For the occasional snorer, sleeping on your side or keeping your head elevated on a wedge pillow might help. However, for consistent and loud snorers, sleep apnea might be a culprit that should not be ignored. Research indicates that 85 percent of people who have sleep apnea remain undiagnosed. The best response to snoring is to visit your primary care physician, who may recommend a sleep study.

Initial sleep studies can now be done at a Sleep Disorder Center or at home (although home testing is not covered by some insurance plans). If a home test indicates sleep apnea, an appointment at the sleep disorder center will still be required to determine the best course of action.

The main thing is to take that first step.

“It’s important to talk with your primary care physician,” Valentine says. “Sleep apnea can cause other health issues that multiply, including high blood pressure and diabetic complications. The bottom line is, good rest leads to good health.”