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Snoring is a breathing problem which deprives patients of oxygen during sleep, causing people to wake up feeling tired. In 10 to 15 percent of cases, snoring can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a potentially dangerous medical condition in which breathing actually stops for 10 seconds to more than a minute, hundreds of times a night. This interruption in breathing lowers oxygen levels and raises carbon dioxide levels in the blood, a condition doctors call hypoxia.

Snoring can be caused by one factor or many, depending on the individual. It can be its own problem or indicate other medical conditions, some of them serious. The list of causes and aggravating factors is a lengthy one:

  • Narrowing of the upper air passages from an increase in size of throat tissues, such as large tonsils and adenoids
  • Enlarged or long uvula
  • Enlarged tongue
  • Increased neck size, especially in people who are overweight
  • Narrowed nasal passages, from allergies, infection, polyps or tumors
  • Deviated septum

Other causes and aggravating factors include obesity, poor muscle tone in the throat, fatigue, medication, alcohol consumption, smoking and sleeping on your back.

What to Do

If snoring is loud enough or frequent enough to disturb others, or if it leaves you feeling fatigued during the hours of the day, make an appointment to see a physician. Your health care provider may make several suggestions or may recommend a specialist for an evaluation.

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