You’re having a great dream. Maybe Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie has taken you to dinner, or you’re just lying on a multi-colored beach towel, sipping a frozen drink on a pristine white beach. Whatever the dream, the last thing you want is to be woken up by your spouse snoring.

You reach over, wop him or her on the head with the pillow, and hope you can reconnect with your dream. More patient spouses may gently wake their partner up and softly murmur, “Honey, you’re snoring again. Can you please stop?”

The problem is that your spouse can’t just voluntarily stop snoring. Snoring isn’t like talking. For this reason, you can’t turn your “snore button” on or off. It can be agitating for the partner who is trying to sleep, frustrating for both parties, and even embarrassing for the snorer.

Perhaps your partner’s snoring has even become some sort of a family joke. The truth is that in some cases, snoring is no laughing matter. It could be a symptom of a much bigger problem, a sleep disorder called sleep apnea. This is why it is important to alert your doctor of excessive snoring.

The word “apnea” means absence of breathing. Snoring causes an obstruction of the airway meaning that a snorer is not breathing properly. This explains why sometimes a snorer can make odd noises like snorts or wheezes. The bottom line is that they are actually trying to catch a breath.

Snoring can cause the airway to be blocked completely for more than ten seconds. If someone is snoring so much that they are keeping others up at night, there is a good chance they have obstructive sleep apnea.

You may be wondering which type of snoring is normal and which type is potentially dangerous. There are actually two types of snoring. The first type is primary snoring, and the second type is snoring that signifies obstructive sleep apnea.

If your partner’s snoring is more of a noisy breathing during sleep, this is primary snoring. This type of snoring is more of a continuous sound rather than episodes of snorting or gasping for breath. Basically, this is snoring without the apnea. These snorers may wake up with dry mouths. They don’t experience insomnia and they aren’t still tired when they wake up.

The more serious snoring is characterized by gasping for breath, snorting, and other wheezing sounds. If you don’t think your partner is doing anything other than primary snoring, it’s still important to talk to your doctor to rule out sleep disorders. These can be very serious.