Snoring can leave you with a dry mouth or sore throat — not to mention a cranky sleep partner. But is it a signal of a larger problem? That depends.

Almost everyone — from a newborn baby to a 70-year-old man — will snore at some point in his or her life; in fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation, 37 million adult Americans snore regularly.

But that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. You snore because there is a physical obstruction of the airflow between your mouth and nose and — more often than not — snoring has an underlying health condition that needs to be addressed.

Here are a few of the most common causes of snoring:

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  • Allergies or a sinus infection. When your nose is stuffy, it’s common to snore because your nasal airways are obstructed.
  • A deviated septum or nasal polyps, which can obstruct your nasal airways
  • Being overweight. If you carry extra pounds, you may have bulky throat tissue, which can cause snoring.
  • Overly relaxed throat muscles. This is often the result of too much alcohol, sleep medication or aging.
  • Pregnancy. About 30 percent of pregnant women snore in the third trimester because of nasal congestion, swelling and a compressed diaphragm, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
  • Long soft palate and/or uvula, which narrows the passageways of the throat

Whatever the cause is of snoring, there are potential health risks associated with it, especially if you are a habitual snorer. These include:

If you snore (or are told you do), it’s important to find out why and treat the underlying cause. That may be as simple as treating your allergies or abstaining from alcohol around bedtime, or you may need to lose weight or have surgery for a physical abnormality. So know that yes, snoring is normal, but that doesn’t mean it’s harmless.

For a comprehensive approach to sleep, the sleep medicine program within the USC Caruso Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at Keck Medicine of USC in Los Angeles can offer relief to those suffering from such issues as snoring and sleep apnea.

If you are in the Los Angeles area and are looking for exceptional care from some of the top physicians in the world, be sure to schedule an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800–872–2273) or by visiting www.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment.

By Anne Fritz