We all know that snoring while you are sleeping is a pretty frustrating problem—not just for the person snoring, but also for the people around them. Snoring can keep people awake, and in so-doing, can disrupt sleep quality for everyone within earshot. But what if you are snoring while awake? Can this really happen, or is your mind playing tricks on you?
Is this problem worse than sleep snoring? What causes it? And what kind of dangers does it present?
A lot of people consider snoring little more than a minor annoyance. But the truth is that it often does real damage. And this damage is almost completely focused around how snoring negatively impacts your (or someone else’s) quality of sleep.
But snoring while you are awake is a slightly different problem, and knowledge is power when it comes to treatment. So here is what you need to know.
What Exactly Does ‘Snoring While Awake’ Mean?
You may have heard this problem described as ‘heavy breathing,’ ‘loud breathing,’ or even ‘noisy breathing.’ As far as symptoms go, this is a relatively easy phenomenon to spot. You may have heard someone’s throat rasping as they were breathing, or you may have heard someone suddenly snore as they were just falling asleep—but both are pretty similar when it comes to the general diagnosis.
The simple truth is that snoring is caused by a phenomenon known as ‘soft palate vibration,’ but this is not just something that happens when someone is asleep. It is more common while sleeping because this is usually when people’s upper airways relax the most.
And when this relaxation occurs, the soft tissues of the airway fall into the opening intended for the air to pass through, and this restricts the movement of air as the individual breathes. When this happens, the air can sometimes ‘vibrate’ the soft tissue of the upper airway, making the sounds that we have come to associate with snoring.
But during sleep is not necessarily the only time that this will happen.
There are actually two possibilities that can lead to the phenomenon that they call ‘waking snoring,’ also known as ‘snoring while you are awake.’
Here they are.
Snoring While Falling Asleep
The first, and most common type of snoring that can occur while you are technically awake happens when you are just falling asleep. When this happens, the individual may find themselves snoring right as they are dozing off—as soon as the upper airway starts to relax to the slightest degree.
But the weird thing about this type of snoring is that the person might even catch themselves snoring before they are truly unconscious, giving them the impression that they are actually snoring while awake! This is actually not that uncommon of a problem though. If you (or someone else) ever notice a loud snoring noise right when you are sitting down or laying down and relaxing, suffer from a dry mouth when you are awake, or end up with a sore throat part way through the night or when you wake up, then there is a strong possibility that you are actually beginning to snore even before you fully fall asleep.
The Second Type—Snoring While Fully Awake
This is actually much less common than the first type—but it can still happen, albeit very rarely. In these types of cases, the person will actually make ‘snoring-like sounds’ when they are fully awake. They may be sitting down, lying down, or even up and walking around/doing things.
While this may be caused by the same basic phenomenon (soft palate vibration) as snoring, it is important to realize that most people don’t have this problem—and it is because, usually, snoring doesn’t occur until the upper airway relaxes. And that doesn’t happen until the person starts to lose consciousness.
So in order for this problem to occur, one of a few different other factors would need to be at play. There would, for example, need to be…
- A lot more extra fatty tissue around the throat than normal
- Some sort of physical abnormality that is causing the breathing to be obstructed
- Some kind of upper respiratory infection causing the snoring
- A regular use of alcohol or drugs that is promoting relaxation while the person is still conscious
- Or some other type of abnormality at play, perhaps suggesting that there is an underlying medical problem that needs immediate attention
This is most certainly a problem that can cause distress or embarrassment. It can also be a problem that can prove relatively dangerous, as it can sometimes be an underlying symptom of a larger problem. But each specific case is different, and determining the causal factors is an important step in figuring out what you should do about it.
What Could Cause Someone To Snore While Awake?
There are a number of different things that could lead to an increase in your risk of snoring while awake (or at least before you are fully asleep). Of course, the most likely reason for snoring while you are awake is that you are just suffering from regular snoring before you have fully passed out. And in such cases, you can likely treat it as such without much further difficulty.
But there are also some instances where the wakeful snoring may be an indication of a different causal factor. Here are some of the most common other causes.
- You are suffering from bacterial pneumonia, or some other upper respiratory infection
- You are suffering from a condition that is causing high-pitched breathing, also known as ‘Stridor.’ Such a condition warrants immediate medical attention to assess your risk of further complications
- You are suffering from a cough and your upper airway is inflamed more than usual
- You are suffering from Aplastic Anemia. This is a pretty rare condition in which the body stops creating sufficient blood cells. You would likely feel extremely ill with a fever, a headache, severe fatigue, and a racing heart beat if you had this condition.
- Lyme Disease and/or hypothyroidism can also lead to this problem
- A hyper-active thyroid can also cause wakeful snoring
- Obstructive sleep apnea could also be to blame
How Should You Treat the Problem?
If you notice that you are suffering from snoring while you are awake, either when you are just falling asleep or while you are completely awake, there are a few different steps that you can take to try to help fix the problem.
First of all, if you are suffering from…
- Noisy breathing, or
- Breathing difficulties (both when fully awake)
- And/or chest pain
… then it is very important that you contact a doctor, go to the hospital, or contact emergency medical services immediately, as this may be an indicator of a worse condition.
Breathing is obviously important! So if you are having any kind of noticeable trouble breathing, it would go without saying that you should probably get it taken care of!
Beyond this, you may also want to schedule a meeting with your doctor to discuss getting a sleep study done, to rule out the possibility of OSA.
Aside from this, other methods that you can use to treat ‘wake-snoring’ are to diet and exercise more, to try to lose weight, and/or to discontinue the use of alcohol and cigarettes.
Buying an anti-snoring mouthpiece can also help you to fend off snoring problems while you are going to sleep, even if you start snoring before you actually pass out. MADs and TSDs are among the most common types of snoring devices that are actually proven to work, so you might want to start out by taking a look at these before moving on to something different.