If you sleep—or try to sleep—next to a snorer, you might compare the sounds to a garbage disposal, perhaps? Or a jet engine?Without question, snoring is annoying, and most of us know the roar all too well. Almost 50 percent of adults snore occasionally, while 25 percent snore regularly.Anatomically speaking, snoring occurs when there’s obstruction of the free flow of air through the passages in the back of your mouth; the air rubbing against the lining of your throat is what makes that sound.If the jackhammer-like vibrations firing form your partner’s face aren’t enough to scare the sheets off you, this fact will: Snoring can reach up to 85 decibels—the sound level of a New York City subway (that’s actually high enough to cause hearing damage over time).While snoring can damage your hearing (and your relationship), it isn’t necessarily a health problem by itself. The important thing is whether snoring is a sign of sleep apnea—a condition that affects 20 million Americans. Almost 10 percent of people who snore have sleep apnea.WATCH VIDEO: Causes and Symptoms of Sleep ApneaSleep apnea is defined as any period during your sleep in which you stop breathing for more than ten seconds at a time. This isn’t snoring. This is actually a stoppage in snoring that takes your breath away. This can happen as many as 200 times a night, though it’s more common to have about five episodes an hour. Sleep apnea can lead to hypertension, heart trouble, lack of energy and a decrease in growth hormone.The primary cause of it is fat (anyone with a neck size larger than 17 inches is at risk). When your heavy jaw naturally moves backward while you’re sleeping, it meets the fatty tissue in the back of your mouth in the throat area. That’s what blocks your airway and stops air from getting to your lungs.QUIZ: Are You Getting Enough Sleep?