What is snoring?
Snoring is the hoarse or harsh sound that occurs when breathing is obstructed in some way while sleeping. Sometimes snoring may indicate a serious health condition. In addition, snoring can be a nuisance to your partner. Snoring is due to incomplete obstruction of the upper airway.

Many habitual snorers have complete episodes of upper airway obstruction where the airway is completely blocked for a period of time, usually 10 seconds or longer. This silence is usually followed by snorts and gasps as the individual fights to take a breath. When an individual snores so loudly that it disturbs others, obstructive sleep apnea is almost certain to be present.

Unlike simple snoring, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a potentially life-threatening condition that requires medical attention.

Causes of snoring and sleep apnea:

The following conditions can affect the airway and cause snoring:

  • Mouth anatomy. Having a low, thick soft palate or enlarged tonsils or tissues in the back of the throat (adenoids) can narrow the airway. Likewise, if the triangular piece of tissue hanging from the soft palate (uvula) is elongated, airflow can be obstructed and vibration increased.
  • Neck circumference. People with a thicker neck may have a narrower airway.
  • Being overweight. Extra weight can build up in the throat and contribute to narrowing of the airway.
  • Being male. Men are twice as likely to have sleep apnea. However, women increase their risk if they’re overweight, and their risk also appears to rise after menopause.
  • Being older. Sleep apnea occurs significantly more often in adults older than 60.
  • Alcohol consumption. Snoring can also be brought on by consuming too much alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol relaxes throat muscles and decreases the natural defenses against airway obstruction.
  • Smoking. Smokers are three times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea than are people who’ve never smoked. Smoking may increase the amount of inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway. This risk likely drops after you quit smoking.
  • Nasal problems. Chronic nasal congestion or a crooked partition between the nostrils (deviated nasal septum) may contribute to snoring.
  • Allergies.

Sleep apnea is considered a serious medical condition.
Complications may include: 
  • High blood pressure or heart problems. Sudden drops in blood oxygen levels that occur during sleep apnea increase blood pressure and strain the cardiovascular system. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, your risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) is greater than if you don’t. The more severe your sleep apnea, the greater the risk of high blood pressure. However, obstructive sleep apnea increases the risk of stroke, regardless of whether or not you have high blood pressure..
  • Daytime fatigue. The repeated awakenings associated with sleep apnea make normal, restorative sleep impossible. People with sleep apnea often experience severe daytime drowsiness, fatigue and irritability. You may have difficulty concentrating and find yourself falling asleep at work, while watching TV or even when driving. You may also feel irritable, moody or depressed. Children and adolescents with sleep apnea may do poorly in school or have behavior problems.
  • Complications with medications and surgery. Obstructive sleep apnea is also a concern with certain medications and general anesthesia. People with sleep apnea may be more likely to experience complications following major surgery because they’re prone to breathing problems, especially when sedated and lying on their backs.
  • Liver problems. People with sleep apnea are more likely to have abnormal results on liver function tests, and their livers are more likely to show signs of scarring.
  • Sleep-deprived partners. Loud snoring can keep those around you from getting good rest and eventually disrupt your relationships. It’s not uncommon for a partner to go to another room, or even on another floor of the house, to be able to sleep. Many bed partners of people who snore are sleep-deprived as well.
People with sleep apnea may also complain of memory problems, morning headaches, mood swings or feelings of depression, a need to urinate frequently at night (nocturia), and a decreased interest in sex.
Children with untreated sleep apnea may be hyperactive and may be diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).