One in five adults, and more than half of men over the age of 40, snore regularly. It may seem relatively harmless, but snoring does more than just keep your partner away, it can increase your risk of a variety of serious health conditions. Before you dismiss your snoring as a harmless annoyance, know this: If your snoring is caused by sleep apnoea, your risk of premature death is increased as much as 40%. That’s because sleep apnoea is related to everything from daytime drowsiness to heart disease.
Causes of snoring
Soft tissue in the throat can narrow the airway, causing the uvula and soft palate to vibrate. This is common, but there are a few factors that can make snoring worse.
Sleep apnoea – This is the most dangerous cause of snoring. Sleep apnoea occurs when tissue obstructs the airway, causing an individual to stop breathing for several seconds then struggle to breathe.
Age – As we age, we lose muscle tone. This can make it more difficult to keep the airway fully open.
Weight – Being overweight often means excess fatty tissue, even in the throat, which can further restrict airflow.
Alcohol and tobacco – Nicotine and alcohol can both relax muscles in the throat allowing the airway to narrow.
Sinus trouble – Allergies, sinus infections, and respiratory illnesses all inflame the airways and restrict airflow.
Sleep position – People who sleep on their backs are more likely to snore, while side sleeping can stop snoring for some.
Risks associated with snoring
Heart disease and stroke – Sleep apnoea has been linked to cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease, and high blood pressure. Researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit found that loud snoring was linked to an increased risk of carotid atherosclerosis, a narrowing of the arteries in the neck, which can lead to stroke. People who snore or have sleep apnoea are also more likely to experience episodes of irregular heartbeat. If you snore, especially if you have any cardiovascular conditions such as high blood pressure, you may be at increased risk of suffering a stroke. The good news is treating sleep apnoea has been shown to decrease these risks significantly.
Reflux – People with sleep apnoea are significantly more likely to suffer from acid reflux. It may be due to the way the throat closes, causing changes in pressure can pull stomach acid into the esophagus.
Daytime drowsiness – People with sleep apnoea stop breathing for several seconds at a time several times every hour while they sleep. Each episode involves a struggle to breathe and semi-arousal, though not necessarily full wakefulness. This means you can think you slept all night, but were actually having your sleep disrupted as often as every few minutes throughout the night. This can cause daytime drowsiness and worsened reaction time that goes with it. This means if you drive or operate heavy machinery, you are at significant risk of injury.
Depression and other mental health issues – Lack of good quality sleep from any cause has been linked to a variety of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.
Headache – People with sleep apnoea are more likely to experience headaches, especially in the morning, due to low oxygen levels through the night.
Regardless of whether your snoring is due to sleep apnoea or something harmless, treating it will help you and especially your partner sleep better. Try sleeping on your side and avoiding alcohol, smoking, and sleeping pills. If this doesn’t help, a custom fitted oral appliance can gently pull your jaw forward, opening the airway and stopping the noise.
To find out more about how you can put a stop to your snoring, call to arrange an appointment on 07 3278 0580 now.