Snoring happens for a huge number of people when they drop off to sleep, but occasionally, individuals may experience snoring sounds when they are awake.
Snoring itself is caused by a combination of the soft palate in the mouth, along with other soft tissue in the back of the throat, including the adenoids, tonsils and uvula, vibrating. This vibration happens when your breathing does not flow smoothly down the air passages and can occur on either the inhale or the exhale. When you are asleep, the tissue in your throat can collapse, and they are more likely to vibrate.
Although your throat muscles are unlikely to be relaxed enough to cause snoring whilst you are awake, it is possible for you to snore, whilst asleep, and still be aware of everything that is going on around you. When this happens, it means that you are in stage one of sleep – just transitioning into full sleep, but you’re still aware and can easily be roused back to wakefulness. You may also have no idea that you are clinically asleep, meaning that you think you are snoring whilst awake – but you are actually fast asleep!
However, it is not that common for people to snore whilst in that first transitional stage of sleep. It may be that if you’re snoring almost as soon as you go to bed, you could have sleep apnea – especially if you are silent before snoring. This silence is an indicator of an apnoeic event – i.e. you stop breathing. If the snores follow shortly after this silence, along with moans and grunts, that is usually your body’s way of getting oxygen back into your body, albeit noisily.
If you are consistently snoring during the first transitional stage of sleep, and you’re suffering with a number of other symptoms, including loud grunts and moans, excessive daytime sleepiness, unrefreshing sleep despite hours and hours of sleep, silences before snores, kicking and thrashing in your sleep, waking up with a dry throat and a headache, insomnia and night-time awakenings, waking up feeling out of breath, forgetfulness and difficulty in concentrating, you may be suffering with sleep apnea. The American Sleep Association has a test that they call the Snore Score, whereby if you score more than one, it’s possible you have sleep apnea. Work out your Snore Score below.
Your answers to this quiz will help you decide whether you may suffer from sleep apnea:
- Are you a loud and/or regular snorer?
- Have you ever been observed to gasp or stop breathing during sleep?
- Do you feel tired or groggy upon awakening, or do you awaken with a headache?
- Are you often tired or fatigued during the wake time hours?
- Do you fall asleep sitting, reading, watching TV or driving?
- Do you often have problems with memory or concentration?
If you answer yes to one of these questions, it could mean that you have sleep apnea. In this case, go to your doctor, tell them your Snore Score, and ask for a sleep study. Sleep studies are very useful in working out whether you have a sleep disorder and they are invaluable for your health and well-being. Even if you are not diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor may be able to give you an answer as to why you are snoring so frequently. Treatments for sleep apnea include CPAP, which is a machine that delivers pressure at a high enough frequency that your airways stay open, and a dental device, which holds your jaw in such a position that your airways remain open. Treatments for snoring including breathing strips that are placed over your nose, anti-snoring rings that work on a holistic basis and saline sprays to keep your nasal passageways open.