The snore should not be ignored.

Sleeping with a snorer may leave you awake counting sheep

(or fiddling for earplugs). But they aren’t consciously snoring, and it could be a sign of something else.

Most people who snore have obstructive sleep apnea, a medical condition that occurs when the airway at the back of the throat becomes physically blocked.Geisinger otolaryngologist Kevin Stavrides, MD, says breathing can stop for a minute, leading to gasping, snorting, and waking the sleeper.

Carrying a few extra pounds is the most common cause, but heavy smoking, drinking and using sedatives can also contribute to sleep apnea. One of the best ways to avoid sleep apnea is to sleep on your side instead of your back.

In many cases, lifestyle changes can solve the problem, says Dr. Stavrides. If snoring persists, your doctor will likely order a sleep study.

Your doctor may prescribe a continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP) or a bi-level positive airway pressure machine (BiPAP) if you have sleep apnea.You wear this mask to bed to keep your airways open while you sleep.

If you have mild sleep apnea triggered by anatomical factors, you may also benefit from a mouthpiece that holds your tongue and jaw in place.

Others may benefit from an implantable hypoglossal nerve stimulator. “The device stimulates your neck before bed to allow your airways to open up,”

A sleep surgeon will determine if surgery is right for you if you need to remove tissue and expand your airway.

Sleep apnea is usually asymptomatic until someone (gently) points it out. After all, most people with it are the ones snoring away.

It will be a win-win for you and them, as you will both sleep better once it’s corrected.

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