Snoring occurs when airflow is blocked or obstructed in the upper airway causing the airway to narrow as you breathe. Excessive snoring can cause concerns, and visiting a health care provider to learn more about your sleep patterns and irregularities is recommended.

According to a 2021 survey conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), nearly 70% of Americans who sleep with a bed partner report that their bed partner snores while sleeping. Snoring can be an indicator of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) especially if accompanied with additional symptoms such as unrefreshed sleep, daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, multiple awakenings in sleep, restless sleep, difficulty with concentration or irritability. If OSA is left untreated it can cause or contribute to serious health concerns.

Diagnosis – Snoring or a Sign of Something More?

If you experience snoring your health care provider may recommend that you see a sleep specialist to see if a sleep study is indicated to further evaluate your sleep and snoring. A sleep study can be performed at home or in a sleep center. Home studies can evaluate your snoring and assess for obstructive sleep apnea. An overnight sleep study at a hospital is called a polysomnogram. A polysomnogram can monitor your sleep behaviors and analyze brain waves, sleep stages, breathing patterns, oxygen levels and heart rate to get a more in-depth understanding and diagnosis. Sleep medicine specialists can help determine which study is most appropriate based on your symptoms and other health conditions.

Primary Snoring

Snoring that is not accompanied by another sleep disorder such as OSA is considered primary snoring. Not everyone who snores has OSA. If sleep testing identifies primary snoring, treatment can help improve sleep quality for those who snore and their bed partners as well. Imaging may be considered to examine your airway. Often ear, nose and throat specialists can evaluate for structural causes of snoring such as a deviated septum or enlarged tonsils.

Treatment of Primary Snoring

There are several ways to reduce snoring without invasive medical treatment. These include:

  • Positional therapy: Sleeping in a lateral position (on your side) can help you snore less. Sleeping with your head more elevated can also improve snoring.
  • Using nasal strips: External nasal strips can help improve airflow when sleeping. These devices are sold over the counter, come with instructions and are easy to use.
  • Using an anti-snoring mouthpiece: Mouthpieces specifically made to ease snoring can effectively reduce snoring. These mouthpieces or mouthguards are also sold over the counter. Some dentists can assist with these as well.
  • Reducing body weight: This treatment option is only applicable to those who are overweight or obese. People with obesity are more likely to suffer from excessive snoring and other irregular sleep patterns. In many patients losing weight can improve airflow and reduce snoring.

UofL Health – Sleep Medicine and UofL Physicians – Sleep Medicine Associates use a multidisciplinary approach to diagnose and treat sleep disorders. Our physicians are board-certified by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Click here to see all locations where we offer sleep medicine services.

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Article by: Tiffany Helmerich, APRN

Tiffany Helmerich, APRN, is a board-certified nurse practitioner with UofL Health – Sleep Medicine, specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders. Tiffany is a graduate of University of Louisville and Indiana Wesleyan University.

All posts by Tiffany Helmerich, APRN
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