Snoring is not as funny as all the jokes about it. It may be an indication of a serious problem called sleep apnea. Snoring is a sound that is made when a person’s tongue and the soft tissues of the throat cause partial obstruction of the airways during sleep. Breathing becomes difficult through the narrowed airways and causes the loud vibrations of snoring. It is usually men who are affected.

While it is disturbing to the family, it may be more troublesome to the person himself. It may keep him from getting the proper amounts of the deeper stages of sleep. He will wake up tired and feel fatigued during the day, perhaps even fall asleep at work or while driving.

The obstruction also causes the person to have pauses in breathing of ten seconds or longer which recur dozens to hundreds of times each night, resulting in a poor night’s sleep and daytime fatigue. It also results in lower oxygen levels and puts a strain on the heart and lungs which may develop changes over the years.

Many “cures” for snoring have been tried and most have failed, but a few basic principles may be helpful. Sleeping on the side rather than the back is helpful. A person should avoid becoming overly sleepy from alcohol, sleeping pills, or tranquilizers which will further relax the tissues of the throat and cause greater obstruction.

Your doctor may be able to treat other causes which add to the obstruction, such as allergies or sinus infections, or even do surgery to reconstruct the soft palate or remove enlarged tonsils. Also, using a c-pap machine during sleep can help keep the airways open.

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