Many of you who don’t know me in person, may not realize how terribly naughty I can be. I think I’ve gotten worse with age. But even I surprised myself when I resorted to throwing water at the guy snoring loudly in the train berth across from me! His snoring was disturbing me. Imagine my surprise when the only thing that happened when the water hit him is that he turned around and continued to snore. Poor chap, I cursed him all night. Little did I realize then that he was suffering from sleep apnea – a condition I read about subsequently. I’ve written about sleeping well a number of times here, but today I want to talk about the health risks associated with snoring.
10 Health Risks Associated With Snoring
Snoring is the noisy breathing we produce during sleep. It is a common condition and can affect both genders at any age. It can occur nightly or at irregular intervals. Research shows that males and overweight individuals have higher chances of being snorers.
However, women too have registered similar cases, though they are not as rampant as those of men. The condition becomes serious with age.
The condition can cause disruptions to our sleep or our bed partner. It may cause intermittent sleep, which results to poor day time function. During the day, we may feel tired and sleepy.
Sleep apnea, is a sleep disorder known to make us snore. Those of us suffering from the condition are likely to die earlier than their peers. Sleep Experts say that the disorder is related to many health problems including heart disease and depression.
The condition is caused by obstruction of air in the mouth and nose. The air can be obstructed by a number of combined factors. For instance:
- Obstructed nasal airways: Some of us are allergic to certain smells, powders, or dust, and snore only when they have a sinus infection. Nose deformities also cause obstruction.
- Poor muscle tone in throat and tongue: our tongue and throat muscles can be too relaxed at times, allowing them to collapse and fall back into the airway. Causative agents of this conditions are deep sleep, use of sleeping pills, and alcohol consumption. Normal aging also causes these muscles to stretch further.
- Bulky throat tissue: throat tissue can enlarge when we add weight. Large tonsils and adenoids in children make them snore.
- Long soft palate and/or vulva: the dangling tissue at the back of our mouth can narrow the opening running from the nose to the throat. When they are excessively long, they vibrate and bump against each other, obstructing the airway. This makes us snore.
When we snore during the night, followed by fatigue during the day for a prolonged period of time, the pattern may translate into adverse health conditions. Medical attention should be considered for habitual snorers. The health risks are discussed below:
When blood flow to an area of our brain is cut off, we get a stroke. Our brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die, and abilities controlled by that area of the brain, such as muscle control and memory, are lost.
Health data analysis from sleep study found that when we snore with too much intensity, we are at a risk of being diagnosed with carotid atherosclerosis. This is a condition whereby arteries on the neck narrow down due to plaque – fatty deposits. This causes stroke. The longer you snore during the night, the higher the risk for a stroke.
Dr. Doghramji, a sleep expert, says that when we snore, we may contract cardiovascular problems, such as coronary artery disease and high blood pressure, consequently leading to a probable heart attack. Data suggests people with the sleep apnea condition are at a higher risk of contracting heart disease and fatal heart attacks.
According to clinical studies, sleep apnea disorder treatment is effective with continuous positive air way pressure, to reduce the risk of a heart disease to that of an individual with sleep apnea. Low oxygen in the levels of blood lead to constricted blood vessels in our lungs and may eventually result to hypertension.
From the word itself, we have a hint that this is about a rhythm, specifically the rhythm of heart beats. In this case, the heart may beat too slowly, too fast, or irregularly. Arrhythmias may be harmless, but sometimes they may be fatal. They may result to too little blood being pumped into the body, damaging the heart, brain and other organs.
Long-term snorers or those with sleep apnea risk developing an irregular heart rhythm, a condition known as arrhythmias. Research says that people who snore are more likely to have instances of atrial fibrillation, the most common type of arrhythmia, than people without the condition, or those who’ve been treated with CPAP, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure.
Apnea may affect the heart’s conductive system. It could also be more common since obstructive sleep apnea seems to enlarge the left atrium over a prolonged period of time.
GERD, Gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a chronic digestive disease, which is a very common condition in people suffering from sleep apnea. Its symptoms are acid reflux and heartburn. When we snore in our sleep, there is a probability of having GERD too because our throats close in a disordered way while air moves in and out as we sleep.
This causes change in pressure that may suck stomach contents back to the esophagus. GERD and sleep apnea are related to accumulation of weight and they ease when we return to a normal weight.
GERD is treatable through lifestyle changes and medical prescription. Some over the counter drugs also treat the illness. Some may however need stronger medications, or even surgery to reduce the symptoms.
Snorers are more prone to dangers of lack of enough sleep. Feeling so sleepy during the day can be too intense that it may put us and the people around us at risk. When this sleepiness and general body fatigue leave us exhausted, we risk falling asleep during critical moments, like while driving. Driving alone may be very dangerous because nobody will be around to control the situation.
Mental health issues
Sleep apnea can affect our mental stability. This leads to issues from feeling sleepy to serious depression. There is a confirmed fact that snorers suffer from sleep apnea and depression. A case study that studied 74 snorers showed that the sleepier they were during the day, the higher their chances were of having mild depression or anxiety syndrome. However, depression is not eased by treating sleep apnea.
Sometimes we often wake up with a headache. A case study done on 268 snorers found that there was a connection between frequent morning headaches and sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea. It was not surprising to find out that snorers with frequent headaches reported a life with low quality than those who don’t have headaches.
This is a condition where we get up to use the bathroom in the middle of sleep. During the night and particularly sleep time, our bodies produce less urine that is usually more concentrated. We, therefore, do not need to wake up to urinate, and can sleep for up to eight hours.
For some of us, it may include a loss of bladder control. Nocturia is linked to snores in both genders. Research says that men with 55 years and above who visit the bathroom regularly during the night may have both benign prostate enlargement and obstructive sleep apnea. There is a strong link between the two conditions, according to research.
Nocturia is treatable. Doctors need to identify the cause of nocturia first in order to treat it accordingly.
Less Sexual Satisfaction
When our spouses are snorers, we may not have the desire for intimate relations with them. Their snores affect us and reduce our sexual feelings. In a study done on 827 older men, they were interviewed on their sex drive, erectile dysfunction, ejaculations, sex life satisfactions and more.
The researchers found out that those who snored more and louder were more likely to exhibit lower levels of sexual satisfaction. However, clinical analysis did not report anything abnormal about their sex responses. Treatment for sleep disorders can get us back into our game.
Still, researchers have not been able to link the two. We rely on assumptions that maybe snorers do not sleep well, and are, therefore, too tired to engage their partners sexually. Partners of snorers may not be sleeping well too due to the stress caused by their snorer partners.
As women, we know the much weight that we can gain during the last trimester of pregnancy. This weight makes us snore, which increases risk for fetal complications.
If sleep disorders affect almost every aspect of our health negatively, then there are higher chances of it disrupting the fetal growth. In severe cases, it could lead to a miscarriage or death of the expectant mother. This condition requires a doctor’s attention to be on the safe side.
According to Dr. Donald M. Sesso, many patients ask many questions on how they can gain weight when they snore. He says that it may also make it impossible to lose weight. He goes on to tell us that when we snore, we become fatigued from restless sleep and this makes us hungrier and less active. We, therefore, tend to have an increased appetite. The hunger, less activeness, and increased appetite combination results to weight gain.
When we add weight, some fatty tissue and poor muscle accumulate around the neck and this makes it hard for us to breathe at night. We may not be overweight, but excess weight around the neck or throat may make us to snore. The best corrective treatment is exercising and losing the excess weight. This will improve the symptoms related to sleep disorders.
Both can also be treated by adopting different lifestyles like avoiding alcohol before going to bed, sleeping on the side, and getting enough sleep.