Why do we snore - and is it something to worry about?

How would you describe it – the sound of a chainsaw or a freight train in the front yard?

If you live with a snorer, you know what I'm talking about. And you know how hard it makes it for you to get a good night's sleep.

But what causes the snoring?

“Snoring is the sound that occurs at night when the structures of the upper airway, basically the throat, are vibrating,” Dr. Eric Olson, asleep medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Olson explains that when we go to bed, the soft tissue in the throat relaxes narrowing the airway.  If it narrows enough, the airflow can become turbulent.

“And that turbulence creates the vibration at the back of the throat,” he said.

Snoring is a common problem.  About half of all men and one in four women snore.  

The good news is that on its own, snoring is typically not medically significant, but it can indicate another sleep disorder called sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder where you stop breathing repeatedly during the night. The only way to know if you have sleep apnea is to be tested.

The Mayo Clinic website has a lot of information on snoring and sleep apnea.