When Is Snoring A Sign Of A Serious Health Issue? : Shots - Health News Most snoring is harmless, aside from the misery it might cause your bed mate. In some cases though, it's a sign of sleep apnea, a serious condition. Here's how to know the difference.

Beyond Annoying: How To Identify The Sounds Of A Troublesome Snore

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If you share a bed with someone who snores, you have got a lot of company. An estimated 40% of adults in the U.S. snore, and it's more common in men than women. So when is snoring just an annoyance, and when can it be a sign of a serious health problem? NPR's Allison Aubrey went looking for that answer.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: I came across a new study published in the journal Sleep Health that looks at the top sleep myths. And it turns out, when it comes to snoring, people tend to think that snoring is a sign of good, deep sleep. Is there any truth to this? I put the question to Erich Voigt. He's an ear, nose and throat doctor at NYU.

ERICH VOIGT: Yeah, no. Snoring really does not demonstrate anything good (laughter) - not at all.

AUBREY: Now, while we sleep, if all the air that moves through our noses and mouths has a clear passage, we can sleep completely silently. But when the airways are narrowed, that's when we snore.

VOIGT: The snoring is basically a vibration of the tissues inside of the body, inside of the airway.

AUBREY: And there are a lot of factors that contribute to it. Some we can control, such as drinking alcohol. Alcohol tends to make the tissues swell a bit. Being overweight can also increase the likelihood. Now, other factors that lead to floppy or swollen tissues, we can't control.

VOIGT: Sometimes it's due to allergy. You can get it from upper respiratory infections, viruses.

AUBREY: So many factors contribute. And Voigt says when storing is light and rhythmic, it may be annoying, but it's not a problem. It tends to sound like this.


AUBREY: However, when snoring becomes very loud and erratic, this can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea - a serious condition that can increase the risk of heart disease.

VOIGT: Basically, the airway will collapse on itself and close. And as the person is trying to breathe in, the air will not pass. And that's what an apnea is.

AUBREY: Here's what this troublesome snoring tends to sound like.

VOIGT: Having a - sort of a crescendo where the snoring is getting louder and louder. And then there are periods where there's no sound. And then they might notice a gasp.

AUBREY: The gasp often sounds like this.


AUBREY: That's a sign there may be a problem, and it's worth it to get it checked out by a doctor. Allison Aubrey, NPR News.


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