Snoring is the noise produced during sleep by vibrations of the soft tissues at the back of your nose and throat. The noise is created by turbulent flow of air through narrowed air passages. In general and in most cases, snoring has no medical significance unless it keeps you or others from sleeping. However, a more serious problem related to snoring can occur when those same soft tissues block the air passages at the back of the throat while you are sleeping. This interferes with the ability to breathe. This condition is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and it can directly affect your health.
- The prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea increases with age.
- Most people diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea are obese. Increased neck fat is thought to narrow the airway, making breathing more difficult.
- Men are 7-10 times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea than women.
- More African Americans have OSA than do whites.
- Most people with obstructive sleep apnea are older than 40 years. Weight gain and a decrease in muscle tone occur with aging, and these may play a role in increasing the incidence of OSA.
- Sleep apnea is more common in postmenopausal women.
- Family history and genetics play a role.
- Polio and muscular dystrophy increase the chance of obstructive sleep apnea, as do other medical conditions such as sinus infections, allergies, colds and nasal tumors, and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland).
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/15/2014
G Richard Braen, MD, FACEP
Steven C Gabaeff, MD, FAAEM
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
Thomas Rebbecchi, MD, FAAEM
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