Sleep Disorders: Myths and Facts About Snoring

Sleep apnea is more serious than snoring.

If You Snore, You Have Sleep Apnea

Myth. Up to half of adults snore regularly, but only about 2%-4% have obstructive sleep apnea. The big difference between the two is that if you have apnea, you stop breathing over and over through the night, sometimes hundreds of times. Things like nasal congestion or the shape of your mouth and throat can cause run-of-the-mill snoring. Apnea is much more serious -- it's linked to health problems like heart disease, and it needs a doctor's treatment.

A relaxed tongue and throat muscles as you get older cause snoring.

Older People Snore More

Fact. People of any age, even kids, can snore. But as you get older, your throat muscles and tongue relax even more while you're sleeping. That makes them vibrate as you breathe -- and that's what causes snoring.

Sleep apnea disrupts sleep and may contribute to insomnia.

Snoring Means You’re Deep Asleep

Myth. On TV, a character who is fast asleep is often sawing logs (usually for comedic effect). But in reality, if you snore, you may be dealing with obstructive sleep apnea. This condition wakes you up and disrupts your sleep cycles, which keeps you from getting truly restful sleep. As a result, people with apnea are more likely to have insomnia, too.

Sleeping on your side instead of your back may improve snoring, but not cure it.

Side Sleepers Snore Less

Fact. Snoring is usually worst when you sleep on your back, because gravity pulls at your throat, which makes your airway narrower. Switching your sleep position won't magically cure you of snoring, but it may help.

Some women snore, especially when they are pregnant or going through menopause.

Women Rarely Snore

Myth. While it's true that men are more likely to snore and have sleep apnea, this doesn't mean that women don't snore. About one in four women snore at least a few times a week. Being pregnant and going through menopause can make it worse.

Snoring is linked to problems with mood and memory.

Snoring Can Mess With Your Mood

Fact. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, you could have trouble concentrating, memory problems, crankiness, and depression. Snoring affects the moods of children, too: One study found that preschoolers who snore are more likely to be anxious and emotionally reactive.

Sleeping pills are often muscle relaxers and may make snoring worse.

Sleeping Pills Can Help

Myth. If you're struggling to fall or stay asleep, you may wonder if a sleep aid could help. But many sleeping pills -- and over-the-counter drugs with "PM" in the name --relax your muscles, making snoring worse.

Keep your mouth and nasal passages moist by staying hydrated to minimize the risk of snoring.

You Could Be A Little Dehydrated

Fact. If you don't drink enough water, your nasal passages and mouth can dry out, making snoring more likely. Be sure to get enough liquids during the day. Using a humidifier in your bedroom can also help, possibly by easing congestion.

Sleeping with a snorer can negatively impact your sleep.

Your Snoring Only Affects You

Myth. If you snore and share a bed, you're probably keeping your partner up. One study found that partners of snorers woke up a whopping 21 times every hour. Another study found that sleeping with a snorer can raise your blood pressure. It also affects a couple's sex life and overall marital satisfaction.

Losing weight may help you snore less.

Losing Weight Will Help

Fact. For some people, extra weight means extra tissue, which can lead to snoring. And there's evidence that overweight people who slim down snore less. But it's worth noting that people who aren't overweight snore, too. So ask your doctor if weight loss is something you should try to stop snoring.

Alcohol disrupts sleep and may increase snoring.

A Nightcap Will Help

Myth. It's true that alcohol makes you fall asleep quickly, but you'll wake up more often during the second half of the night. Also, alcohol relaxes your throat muscles, which blocks your airway and makes snoring more likely.

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REFERENCES:

  • Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine: "Does Snoring Intensity Correlate with the Severity of Obstructive Sleep Apnea?" "The Pursuit of Happiness: Sleep Apnea, Sex, and Sleepiness."
  • Therapeutic Advances in Chronic Disease: "Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome and its management."
  • Harvard Health Publishing: "Is snoring always a sign of sleep apnea?" "Is sleep apnea keeping you awake?" "Snoring Solutions."
  • Mayo Clinic: "Snoring."
  • National Sleep Foundation: "Common Causes of Snoring," "Snoring and Sleep," "Sleeping By the Trimesters: 3rd Trimester," "Menopause and Sleep," "The Connection Between Hydration and Sleep."
  • Cleveland Clinic: "Snoring."
  • The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences: "Update on Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Implications for Neuropsychiatry."
  • Sleep Medicine Clinics: "Insomnia and Obstructive Sleep Apnea."
  • American Academy of Sleep Medicine: "Snoring -- Overview and Facts."
  • Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics: "Mood is associated with snoring in preschool-aged children."
  • Mayo Clinic Proceedings: "The effect of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea on the sleep quality of bed partners."
  • European Heart Journal: "Acute effects of night-time noise exposure on blood pressure in populations living near airports."
  • Sleep: "Tongue fat and its relationship to obstructive sleep apnea."
  • Lung India: "Does 'weight reduction' help all adult snorers?"
  • Chest: "Treatment for snoring. Combined weight loss, sleeping on side, and nasal spray."
  • Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research: "Alcohol and sleep I: effects on normal sleep."
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