Snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea, and for loved ones in the presence of a snorer the term “snoring threshold” has a figurative meaning as well as a medical one.

A literal snoring threshold that gauges snoring instances could prove valuable in assessing sleep disorders. A recent study suggests home-based screening of this snoring threshold (the clinical one, not your patience) may be especially beneficial in diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most widespread and dangerous type of sleep apnea, in which breathing stops repeatedly during sleep.

woman covering her ears while husband snores loudly next to her in bed

Sleep Apnea: An Oft-Undiagnosed Danger

An increasing number of global health organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recognize insufficient sleep and obstructive sleep apnea as public health concerns. The CDC notes that between 50 million and 70 million U.S. adults are thought to have a sleep disorder, but the actual number is unknown because many people don’t seek treatment.

Snoring and other sleep apnea symptoms are often dismissed as mere annoyances. Some people are concerned that diagnosis requires lengthy or costly testing, while others aren’t aware that simple, comfortable treatments exist.

Because sleep apnea is so dangerous, and because it so frequently goes undiagnosed, substantial research in recent years has focused on ways to make sleep apnea screening more efficient by incorporating home-based diagnostic measures. Which brings us back to the snoring threshold…

Monitoring Snoring at Home

Not everyone who snores has OSA, and not everyone with sleep apnea snores. However, snoring is the most widely reported symptom of OSA, and the presence and frequency of chronic snoring provide cues to check for other indicators.

Researchers with the Helsinki University Hospital and the University of Helsinki recently conducted a study with 211 patients suspected of suffering from OSA. Using a sleep monitor outfitted with a microphone, scientists measured subjects’ apnea-hypopnea index (AHI, the number of breathing interruptions) and the rates of periodic snoring.

The study produced a correlation between the percentage of periodic snoring per hour and subjects’ AHI. Researchers believe establishing a snoring threshold and measuring snoring at home would be “a useful method for predicting the probability of OSA.” They found that if a person was snoring 15% of the time, they were quite likely to have an AHI of 15 or more, which is considered moderate sleep apnea, the point at which sleep apnea treatment is considered critical. The findings appeared earlier this month in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Seeking Help for Snoring and Sleep Apnea

There are a number of home-based test kits for sleep apnea, and they vary widely in effectiveness and cost. Another step you can take in the comfort of your home is the self-evaluating Epworth Sleepiness Scale. This questionnaire helps determine your level of daytime drowsiness, another common symptom of OSA.

You should see a doctor if you regularly snore loud enough to interrupt the sleep of yourself or others, or if you frequently wake up choking or gasping for air. As many people don’t notice their own snoring, it’s also a good idea to consult with a doctor if you routinely feel fatigued or sleepy during the day.

If you’re ready to talk with a medical professional about the effects of snoring or possibility of OSA, Denver sleep apnea dentist Dr. Kevin Berry is here to help. Please contact the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado today at (303) 691-0267.