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When Does Snoring Become an ENT Problem? These Signs Mean it’s Time to See a Specialist

Snoring can be quite disturbing to both you and your partner’s sleep, but typically, the occasional occurrence of snoring isn’t cause for concern. However, serious snoring can indicate an underlying issue that needs the expertise of an ENT specialist. At Houston Physicians’ Hospital, we understand that severe snoring can impact not only your quality of sleep, but also your health, so we’ve laid out some signs that mean it’s time to see an ENT doctor for your snoring.


What Causes Snoring?

Snoring occurs when the passages at the back of the mouth and nose become obstructed, limiting the free flow of air. As a result, the airway where the tongue and upper throat meet the soft palate and uvula strike against each other and vibrate, leading to the hoarse snoring sound. While snoring is common in many individuals, when it becomes excessive, it could be the result of an underlying issue that requires the help of an ENT specialist. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, severe snoring can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This condition is characterized by multiple episodes of pauses in breathing that last more than 10 seconds at a time. This is as a result of the collapsing or narrowing of the upper airway. (1)


When Should I See an ENT Specialist for Snoring?

Because obstructive sleep apnea can lead to potential health risks, like a lower amount of oxygen in the blood and a disruption in the body’s normal sleep cycle, those who experience the following symptoms should seek the help of an ENT specialist:


  1. Hypersomnia

The Hypersomnia Foundation defines hypersomnia as a term used to define excessive daytime sleepiness (2). This is a symptom commonly found in those affected by sleep apnea, because the excessive snoring relating to this condition can hinder a deep, restful sleep, leaving those affected feeling fatigued when they are awake. Hypersomnia goes beyond the need for caffeine to help wake you up in the morning – symptoms can include being so sleepy that it can affect your ability to perform routine activities, like driving. Those suffering from hypersomnia as a result of snoring should seek the help of an ENT doctor to help diagnose the presence of obstructive sleep apnea.


  1. Your Snoring Wakes Yourself or Other People Up

The American Academy of Otolaryngology states that heavy snoring can result in the bed partner to experience sleepless nights and fatigue and could be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (1). If your snoring has woken you or your partner up at night, it is an indicator that the snoring is serious enough to be a symptom of OSA. Speak to an ENT specialist to determine the best course of treatment.


  1. Difficulty Staying Asleep

The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry indicates a link between sleep disorders, like obstructive sleep apnea, and difficulty maintaining sleep (3). Also called insomnia, this difficulty in staying asleep is common with OSA, due to the pauses in breathing and heavy snoring obstructing the body’s ability to maintain a normal sleep schedule.


While snoring occasionally isn’t something to worry about, if you experience the above symptoms due to your snoring, it may be due to obstructive sleep apnea that needs to be diagnosed and treated by an ENT specialist. For ENT services in the Clear Lake area, give Houston Physicians’ Hospital a call at (281) 557-5620.