Snoring 101: Harmless Habit or Sign of a Health Issue?

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Have you been told that you’re a snorer? Or are you awoken in the night by a partner who snores? Don’t hit snooze, it’s time for a little snoring 101. Virginia Skiba, M.D., a Henry Ford sleep medicine specialist, gives a crash course on this common sleep condition.

What Causes Snoring?

“While you are sleeping, everything is relaxed, creating a vibration in the back of your throat as you breathe, causing you to snore,” explains Dr. Skiba. Snoring can occur at any age – even if you do not snore as a child, it is possible that you will later in life. About 40 percent of men snore at some point in their life, whereas only 24 percent of women do.

Did you know that weather can affect your snoring patterns? During allergy season, you may have a runny nose or be severely congested, both worsening snoring. Snoring is also more common in people who are overweight, due to the excess tissues in the back of the throat. However, snoring is not limited to those who are overweight – snoring can potentially run through your family and it depends on your overall anatomy.

Snoring vs. Sleep Apnea

So, how do you know when snoring is a sign of a health problem? Primary snoring is simply just snoring, and while it may be annoying to those around you, it’s probably harmless. But once you experience sleeping disturbances or daytime sleepiness, this is a sign that it might be something more. With Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), your relaxed muscles block the airways, making it difficult to breathe and putting serious stress on your heart.

It can be tempting to ignore snoring or assume it’s harmless – especially if you have been living with it for a long time. In fact, you could be endangering yourself by not getting your sleep habits professionally checked out.

Dr. Skiba recommends seeking medical guidance for the following symptoms:

  • Waking up during the night
  • Stopping breathing during sleep
  • Using the restroom frequently throughout the night
  • Waking up with headaches
  • Feeling constantly tired
  • Moodiness or depression
  • Difficulty thinking or paying attention
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease such as AFib (atrial fibrillation, or a common type of irregular heartbeat)

Can Snoring Be Cured?

There are some treatments that can help you – and your partner – achieve better sleep. Dr. Skiba shares her best tips for treating your snoring:

  • To reduce loudness, sleep on your side.
  • Sleep with your torso elevated.
  • Lose weight.
  • Improve the flow through your nose (this may mean treating your nasal congestion or deviated septum).
  • Quit smoking.
  • Avoid muscle relaxers, opiates, alcohol and other things that cause muscles to relax more.
  • Sleep with an oral device that moves your lower jaw forward, creating more space in your throat; you can talk to your dentist about getting a device.
  • You can also discuss surgical options with an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor.

And, most importantly, make sure your snoring is not sleep apnea. Discuss your sleeping habits with a doctor to see if a sleep study is needed to better understand your unique case.


If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep, learn more at henryford.com/sleep. For an appointment or to find a doctor near you, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

Dr. Virginia Skiba is a sleep medicine specialist seeing patients at Henry Ford Medical Centers in Grosse Pointe, Detroit and Sterling Heights.

Categories: FeelWell

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