According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, forty-five percent of normal adults snore at least occasionally and 25 percent are habitual snorers. Snoring may be a sign of sleep apnea, a disorder that causes breathing to stop or get very shallow. People with sleep apnea often snore loudly, but not everyone who snores has sleep apnea.
In obstructive sleep apnea, a person's airway becomes blocked during sleep and they often make a choking sound when breathing becomes normal again. In addition to getting restless sleep, which makes a person drowsy and can impair work or school performance, untreated obstructive sleep apnea can lead to serious issues like heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and many other medical problems.
Sleep apnea is more common in males, in those who are overweight or have a family history or small airways. Children with enlarged tonsils may also develop sleep apnea.
It can be diagnosed based on medical and family histories, a physical exam and sleep study results. Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, mouthpieces, surgery and breathing devices are used to treat the condition.