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Snoring ... The Sleep Disorder
That Keeps Everyone Awake

Probably everyone is familiar with snoring. If you don't snore, you've probably shared a room or bed with someone who does. Although snoring is often the butt of many jokes and used for comedic effect on TV and in movies, snoring can actually be a serious medical condition. Many people view snoring as a harmless nuisance, but in reality, it can indicate underlying health problems. Snoring can take a toll on the quality of you and your sleeping partner's sleep, as well as your overall health.

Mild Snoring, Severe Snoring, and Sleep Apnea

Many people mistakenly make no distinction between mild snoring and sleep apnea. Regular, mild snoring occurs when a person experiences some sort of congestion or airway obstruction, resulting in loud breathing sounds during sleep. Most of the time, snoring is a normal phenomenon that occurs when a person is experiencing congestion, enlarged adenoids or tonsils, or when a person abuses of alcohol or sedatives. Mild snoring can usually be alleviated by avoiding alcohol consumption, the use of sedatives, or by sleeping on one's back. Indeed, most people who are experiencing mild snoring can find relief simply by turning to sleep on their sides. If snoring is caused by congestion caused by a cold, flu, or sinus infection, symptoms will usually subside as the illness gradually passes.

Severe snoring can indicate more serious health problems. Severe snoring occurs when a person experiences regular, chronic snoring. When a person is experiencing severe snoring, they will snore no matter what sleeping position they take. If you tend to awake yourself or your sleeping partner with your snoring, chances are your snoring is more severe than mild. Also, if you find yourself experiencing fitful sleep, and wake feeling fatigued even after several hours of sleep, you should consult your doctor. You may need to be observed at a sleeping clinic to find out the degree and possible causes of your snoring.

Sleep apnea is often confused with snoring since it produces similar sounds. The basic distinction is that snoring is simply a sound a person makes while sleeping, while sleep apnea causes a person to stop breathing several times during the night. Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person experiences an obstruction in breathing, causing a pause of up to ten seconds in breathing. These pauses of breath can occur up to 30 times during the course of one night's sleep! When a person suffers from sleep apnea, they will wake several times a night to regain breath. Many times, people are not aware that they suffer from sleep apnea, and only become aware when their sleep partner observes the symptoms. In rare cases, sleep apnea left untreated can prove fatal.

The Social Aspect of Snoring

Snoring is not only a medical concern. Snoring can also take quite a social toll. A person who snores may keep their sleep partner awake, and cause their quality of sleep to decline. The snorer's sleep partner may also worry about their partner's health, especially if they also suffer from sleep apnea. Both the snorer and their sleeping partner may experience sleep deprivation and insomnia that in turn leads to irritability, daytime fatigue, restlessness, and overall lack of energy and productivity. In serious cases, a person's snoring may even drive their sleeping partner out of the bedroom, and into the respite of a quieter room.

The Health Risks of Snoring

Excessive or chronic snoring can be indicative of more serious medical problems. Not only can snoring cause serious sleep deprivation, it has also been linked to various health problems. Snoring has been associated with obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and a greater chance of getting a stroke.

The most obvious health risks of snoring include increased daytime fatigue and sleepiness, low energy, inability to think clearly, and a compromised immune system that is more susceptible to getting colds, flu's, and other illnesses.

Because snoring reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain, it may also exacerbate a person's vulnerability to developing adult onset diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and heart disease.

What Can You Do to Reduce Your Chances of Snoring?

The best thing you can do to prevent snoring is to make proactive lifestyle adjustments. Maintain a healthy weight, get regular exercise, avoid smoking and overuse of alcohol or sedatives, and avoid dairy products or other difficult to digest foods before bedtime. Many people can greatly reduce the occurrence of snoring simply by sleeping on their sides, and sleeping without a pillow, or at least a flatter pillow.