Could loud snoring indicate a medical problem?

4 answers | Last updated: Jan 04, 2015
A fellow caregiver asked...

My 76-year-old father snores so loudly he wakes himself and the rest of us up almost every night. Besides the noise issues, how can I tell if this is a medical problem?

Expert Answers

An adjunct professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, Moira Fordyce is on the board of the American Society on Aging.

Loud snoring can be a sign of a medical disorder or something more benign. It can be caused by any of the following:

  • Swelling, inflammation, or collapsing of tissues in the nose, mouth, or throat, which can obstruct breathing
  • Smoking or being exposed to secondhand smoke
  • Consuming too much alcohol before bedtime
  • Being overweight
  • Sleeping on your back
  • Prescription or over-the-counter medications

Listen carefully, and if your father stops breathing from time to time when he's sleeping as well as snoring, this could be due to a condition called sleep apnea (a Greek word that means "without breath"), which is more common in elders. When breathing stops, the amount of oxygen getting to vital organs such as the heart and the brain is reduced. Also, spikes of high blood pressure can occur, which increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke. Taking a sedative (sleeping pill), tranquilizer, or more than one moderate-sized drink of alcohol in the evening makes sleep apnea worse and should be avoided.

Your best bet is to get a medical evaluation for your father to look for treatable disease. His doctor might then refer him to a sleep lab for evaluation to see if he has a sleep disorder. He might wear a home sleep monitor for a few nights to help arrive at a diagnosis. If he's found to have a sleep disorder in addition to any of the other reasons for snoring listed above, there's treatment available for him.

Community Answers

Littlesister answered...
Definitely consult with your dad's physician. We're working through this same issue with my mom and she's being tested for a variety of issues, including the most serious...sleep apnea. I never realized what a big problem it was until I shared a hotel room with her on a recent trip. She kept me awake all night and woke herself up more than a dozen times.

Ca-claire answered...

My husband was diagnosed with sleep apnea 8 years ago, shortly after we moved in together. Evidently he had been a big snorer all his life (he would be 62 now, if he were still alive. The snoring was odd sounding, and at my insistence, he talked with his Dr. about it, and had a sleep study. They put him on a CPAP immediately, and suggested that he lose weight (60 lbs overweight). He made the choice to ignore the weight loss advice.

He was faithful after that wearing his CPAP at night, or for long naps to the point that he really had difficulty sleeping without it. Although the fan noise was a bit bothersome at night, it was worth it to have him sleeping better.

He had a severe stroke almost 4 years ago, and passed away after heart surgery August 2009. Now there's a new study report that relates stroke risk with sleep apnea. Who knew that two such seemingly unrelated things can now be related?

Katrina lyons answered...

My snoring was so bad that my wife refused to sleep in the same room with me. I had tried the mouth implements and although they worked, they were very uncomfortable. Then I found the SlumberNow clip and my snoring problems were solved. My wife is sleeping with me again and I get a more peaceful sleep as I breathe through my nose all night and not my mouth. I also fall asleep quicker.

The best way to use the SlumberNow is to blow your nose thoroughly first and then insert the SlumberNow before you go to bed.