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An estimated 40 percent of adults in the US snore. And men: They tend to snore women. (Yes, that may explain why you are kicked or kicked at night!)
And despite the myth that snoring is a sign of deep sleep, there is really no advantage.
"Snoring really does not bode well," says Erich Voigt, an ear, nose and throat doctor and sleep specialist at New York University's Langone Health. "You can sleep well in a quiet sleep."
Snoring is never good news, but it is often harmless (other than the pain your sleeping partner may feel). In some cases, however, this is a sign of something serious.
When we sleep, when the air that moves through our nose and mouth has a clear passage, we can sleep silently. But when the airways are narrowed, we'll snore.
"Snoring is essentially a vibration of tissue within the airway," explains Voigt – that is, the roof of the mouth and the vertical folds of tissue almonds.
Many factors can contribute to snoring, says Voigt. We can control some of the underlying triggers. For example, alcohol consumption is associated with snoring. Alcohol tends to swell the tissue in our mouth, and alcohol can also alter the quality of sleep.
"Your brain is sedated with alcohol, so the combination can make snoring worse," says Voigt.
Being overweight can also increase the likelihood of snoring. When people lose weight, it can reduce the amount they snore.
Other factors that contribute to snoring may be beyond our control. There are physical obstacles, such as a large uvula or a distracted septum. In addition, allergies and upper respiratory tract infections can cause the tissue on the palate to become somewhat flaccid, swollen or stretched, says Voigt.
So, snoring is just annoying and a sign of it may be a serious problem? A light, rhythmic snore – which stays pretty quiet – is common and tends to be harmless. "It may be bad for the bed partner, but it's not a big health problem," says Voigt.
However, when snoring becomes loud and unpredictable, this can indicate a problem. If you are worried about the person you sleep with, what should you look for?
"A crescendo that makes snoring louder and louder," explains Voigt, is the first sign. The crescendo is typically followed by periods without sound and then a gasp that may sound like a snort.
This pattern of snoring may be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, which is a serious condition that can increase the risk of heart disease. In people with this condition, the respiratory tract collapses and contracts. "And if the person tries to breathe in, the air will not get through, that's the apnea," explains Voigt.
You can watch and listen to this YouTube video to demonstrate somebody's generated sleep apnea sounds.
Listen to the sound of normal snoring at the beginning of this video. In 1:10 minute you hear the snoring and wheezing that is characteristic of sleep apnea.
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"In the first minute he has regular rhythmic snoring," says Voigt. "Then in the second minute he has a break (apnea) or no breathing, followed by a big gasp for air."
Often people with sleep apnea do not wake up, so they do not know they have a problem. So, if you're sleeping with someone who snores, you're in a good position to spot the problem. It would be best to have him examined by a doctor who can diagnose the problem.