According to the Mayo Clinic, half of adults snore in their sleep. Some snore occasionally, while others snore every time they sleep. Snoring is what happens when air flows past relaxed tissues in your throat as you sleep, making the tissues vibrate and create those sometimes irritating–and very loud–snoring sounds.  In most cases snoring is harmless, but you must not take it lightly.

Symptoms to Heed

Snoring can be a sign of a serious health condition, like obstructive sleep apnea. Below are five symptoms that indicate that your snoring is a warning of something more serious.

  •  Loud and frequent snoring. Frequent snoring that is so loud that your partner or roommate has to sleep in another room so he or she can sleep is a common symptom of sleep apnea. Not everyone who snores loud enough to wake the dead has sleep apnea, but loud, frequent snoring is definitely something to tell your doctor about.
  •  Daytime fatigue or sleepiness. Waking up feeling as if you’ve barely slept despite having had a full night’s sleep, or dozing off during the daytime, is another symptom of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes sleep interruptions that deprive your body of the quality sleep it needs to revive, thus leaving you feeling tired.
  •  Gasping or choking during sleep. Snoring accompanied with gasping, choking or breathing pauses is a symptom you shouldn’t ignore. This is a strong indicator of obstructive sleep apnea.
  •  Morning Headaches. The frequent breathing pauses that are characteristic of sleep apnea impacts oxygen levels, causing a buildup of carbon dioxide in blood. This affects the nervous system and the blood flow to the brain, causing headache.
  • High blood pressure. Every time you stop breathing during a sleep apnea episode, your body goes into “fight or flight” mode, causing your blood pressure to rise. Treating sleep apnea is a step toward lowering your blood pressure, not to mention getting a better night’s sleep.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your doctor will ask you about your sleeping patterns to determine if you have a problem that needs further evaluation. If necessary, he may refer you to a sleep disorder center, where a sleep specialist will conduct a sleep study to determine the cause of your sleep pattern. If you have sleep apnea, the type of treatment you receive will depend on the severity of the condition. Treatment may involve:

  • Bilevel positive airway pressure (BPAP)
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
  • Expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP)
  • Oral appliances
  • Surgery

Be Proactive

See your doctor if you have any of the symptoms mentioned or notice any other changes in your sleep pattern that cause concern. Left untreated, sleep apnea could increase your risk of cardiac disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity. You are also at a higher risk for sleep apnea if you have high blood pressure, smoke or are overweight.