Researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit believe that snorers may be more likely to have a thickened carotid artery than even those that indulge in smoking, or are overweight and have high levels of cholesterol. It is believed that the thickening of the arteries, especially the two large ones that transport oxygenated blood to your brain is a sign of atherosclerosis and can lead to a number of vascular diseases.
Let this be a wakeup call for the unsuspecting snorers out there. Snoring can very well be more than just a bedtime annoyance for your roommate or partner. There is growing evidence that suggests that isolated bouts of snoring should be taken seriously as it may not be as harmless as first suspected. So instead of spending sleepless nights kicking and elbowing your bed partners, you must advise them to seek medical care just like you would if they had any other risk factors such as high blood pressure or sleep apnea.
However, there is a lot of confusion and many myths surrounding the phenomenon of snoring, and to really answer the question “is snoring bad for health,” let us explore the basics of snoring before we can reach a definitive answer.
Snoring is a very common sleeping condition that affects a major chunk of the population. Statistics point out that 30% of people above the age of 30 happen to be regular snorers. Statistics also reveal that the condition is likely to be more prevalent in the male population as 40% of them are habitual snorers compared to 24% of females. Snoring is said to get worse as a person ages. Occasional snoring may not be a sign of anything serious, but there can be underlying conditions that snoring could be trying to point out to you if you’re a chronic snorer.
Snoring simply occurs as a result of the blockage of air passageways. When the air you breathe in is physically obstructed, it results in that annoying sound that keeps your partner or roommate up at night. There can be a number of reasons behind this obstruction of airflow.
Poor muscle tone in the tongue and throat: When your tongue and throat muscles relax too much, they collapse and fall back into the airway. This could be due to a number of reasons such as alcohol consumption, being in a deep sleep, using sleeping pills, or just the normal aging process.
Blocked nasal passageways: Some of you may only snore occasionally when your nasal airways are blocked. Therefore some people experience snoring only when they have an active allergy or an infection of the sinus. At other times, your nasal airways can be blocked due to a deformity of the nose. Conditions such as a deviated septum can cause a structural alteration in the wall separating the two nostrils and end up creating an obstruction in the nasal passageway. Similarly, nasal polyps can also be a cause of obstruction.
Bulky throat tissue: Those of you who are overweight are more likely to develop such a throat issue. Children with adenoids or large tonsils can also experience snoring because of the same reason.
Long uvula: A uvula is that long soft palate or the tissue that dangles at the rear end of your mouth. When you have a large uvula, it can narrow the passageway that the air has to pass through. As the air struggles to pass through this narrow passageway, it rattles the structure and causes the person to snore.
When Is Snoring Harmless?
Snoring can be entirely harmless in a number of cases. It is a common phenomenon, and while your bed partner may not agree on its harmlessness, it can be perfectly okay for many of you to snore occasionally.
As mentioned earlier, snoring tends to intensify with age. The reason behind that is that your throat muscles relax and become looser as you age. If that’s the reason behind your snoring, it is not anything to worry about.
Occasionally, when you’ve had one too many alcoholic drinks, it may also cause you to snore. This is similarly harmless. We all know that alcohol tends to work as a muscle relaxant; it relaxes the throat muscles and causes them to fall back and become an obstruction in the air passageway.
In the case of any alterations in the nasal structure or the structure of your throat, you may also experience snoring. Conditions such as enlarged tonsils or a deviated septum can cause anatomical modifications that will then cause you to snore. Another similar case of harmless snoring is when you’re experiencing throat or nasal inflammation due to allergies or active infections. They tend to block the air passageway and cause you to experience snoring occasionally. Occasional snoring, therefore, can be regarded as harmless.
When Is Snoring Harmful?
When snoring is habitual and permanent, it should not be overlooked. Especially if it is accompanied by any of the following symptoms.
- Constant fatigue
- Episodes of micro-sleep throughout the day
- Recent weight gain
- Chest pain at night
- High blood pressure
- Memory loss or inability to focus and concentrate on tasks
- Waking up out of breath
- Sleep apnea
If snoring is accompanied by any of the symptoms described above, you should consult your doctor as these can be signs of other underlying issues that will expose you to a plethora of health woes.
Sleep apnea is quite prevalent among the population that snores. In fact, it is the risk of sleep apnea that exposes the snorer to a whole host of health issues and concerns. The mechanism that works behind snoring closely mirrors that behind obstructive sleep apnea, where the snorer skips breathing for short
intervals during the sleep cycle. Therefore, snorers are exposed to a high risk of developing this sleeping disorder.
Risks That the Snorer May Be Exposed to:
Sleep apnea is by far the largest health concern that should trouble a snorer. Most health risks that the snorer may be exposed to are associated with obstructive sleep apnea. Below are the potential health risks associated with sleep apnea and snoring.
Data from a sleep study revealed that snoring can be tied to a risk of carotid atherosclerosis. It is a condition where the arteries running through the neck tend to thicken as the fatty deposits called plaque are deposited there over time. This greatly increases your risk of suffering from a stroke. The intensity of your snoring should be alarming as it points to such an underlying condition.
The louder you snore, the greater the risk of stroke you’re exposed to. Do see a doctor, especially if your loud snoring is accompanied by symptoms such as high blood pressure and signs of sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea has been constantly linked to cardiovascular problems such as coronary artery disease and high blood pressure that may eventually lead to heart attacks. Studies suggest that people suffering from sleep apnea are two times more likely to experience both fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular disease incidents.
Those experiencing habitual or long term snoring and sleep apnea will go on to develop an uneven heart rhythm – a condition known in the medical terms as arrhythmia. The most common type of arrhythmia is known as atrial fibrillation. Most of us with sleep apnea tend to suffer from this form of arrhythmia. It also goes on to affect the functioning of the heart in the long run.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known by its acronym GERD, is quite common among those suffering from sleep apnea. People suffering from sleep apnea or snoring are very likely to develop this condition due to the fact that their throat works in a disorderly fashion as the air passes through while they are asleep. This causes abnormal pressure changes in the esophagus that then tends to suck back up the contents of their stomach. This can cause you to choke in your sleep or wake up gasping for air.
Risk of Injury
It may sound far-fetched, but suffering from sleep apnea or snoring both cause sleep deprivation, which, in turn, can expose you to such a risk. Furthermore, the risk of injury is not limited to you either. For example, episodes of microsleep during the day when you’re driving can potentially be fatal for you as well as those around you. An analysis of data related to road accidents points to a clear link between road accidents and the driver feeling sleepy.
Mental Health Issues
The ill-effects of sleep apnea on mental well-being are quite well known. It affects your nervous system functioning, causing you to feel depressed and anxious. It also goes on to hamper your cognitive abilities and affects your productivity as a result. Research has established a clear link between snoring, sleep apnea, and depression. If you want to know more about the therapies that can help you against sleep apnea induced depression, you’ll find this link quite useful.
If you are a snorer and you often wake up with a headache in the morning, it is not just the doing of your wife’s complaining about your loud snoring. Research suggests that habitual snorers are more likely to experience morning headaches that ones who do not snore as there is a direct link between sleeping disorders such as sleep apnea and morning headaches. Find out more on the subject here.
Nocturia is the medical term used to describe your condition where you get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night two or more times. Besides being a result of the loss of bladder control, it has also been linked to snoring.
Research has revealed that men above the age of 55 who frequently wake up at night to urinate are most likely suffering from sleep apnea.
A study involving 827 men revealed how snoring can actually be related to lack of sexual satisfaction. It points out that the louder and the more frequent the snores are, the more likely they are to be suffering from sexual dissatisfaction. Although the subjects of the study did not demonstrate any psychological signs of suppressed sexual response, many habitual snorers have been observed to have subdued desire for intimacy with their partners.
Snoring can be one pregnancy-related symptom that is usually experienced in the last trimester. It is actually due to the weight gain that the pregnant woman goes through. However, of greater concern is the fact that this snoring has been said to increase the chances of fetal complications.
Although no clear connection has so far been developed, it could most likely be due to the sleep deprivation that snoring usually results in as sleep deprivation has an overarching impact on almost every aspect of your health.
Is snoring bad for your health? In some cases, yes. In others, it may be totally harmless. The basic takeaway is that snoring is largely harmless if it is occasional and caused by things that temporarily obstruct the air passageways. However, if it is permanent and you’re a habitual snorer, then it is highly likely that you also suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, which in turn exposes you to a plethora of
health risks. Therefore, you must be heedful and not ignore your partner when he or she complains about your snoring. If you suspect that your snoring is hereditary, here’s a helpful guide that will enlighten you on the subject.
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