We all know that snoring is a nuisance condition for both the sufferer and more so their sleeping partner but could it be more of a concern than that?
Is snoring bad for my health? In short, yes. Mild to moderate snoring will still disrupt sleep and this can be a cause of headaches, mild depression and an increase in accidents and possible other health issues. When we consider that up to half of the people who report snoring possibly suffer from a condition called sleep apnoea, then there are even greater concerns.
What Is Snoring & Why Is It Bad For My Health?
Snoring is caused by the vibration of relaxed tissue in your throat when you are breathing when asleep. Approximately 30-40% of adult males snore and 10-25% of women do too. It is so common that it is usually considered as nothing more than a mild irritant. However, the medical world considers it as much more than just that. You may also be interested in the article, “How to Stop Snoring without Surgery“.
What is Sleep Apnoea then and why is it so dangerous?
Sleep apnoea is a condition resulting in pauses in breathing during sleep. One adopted definition defines the pauses as those longer than 10 seconds. It is more likely to occur if you are overweight and if you have been a long term (chronic) snorer. It is suspected that many sufferers of sleep apnoea are not aware of their condition and therefore will not be aware of the health risk it poses to them.
Symptoms that are linked to sleep apnoea include:
- Frequent headaches,
- Pauses in breathing (for longer than 10 seconds);
- Morning headaches;
- Choking or gasping sounds;
- daytime tiredness,
- Fatigue or sleepiness;
- Unrefreshed sleep;
- Difficulty concentrating;
- Loss of libido;
- Memory loss;
- Waking through the night to pass water (nocturia).
If you suffer from any of these you might want to consider seeking help from your doctor for further investigation. Unlike snoring on its own, sleep apnoea is a medical condition and can have very severe consequences and is not to be taken lightly.
Sleep Apnoea and Driving
The DVLA request that you do NOT drive with sleep apnoea if you have excessive sleepiness until symptoms are controlled and if the symptoms are considered ‘moderate’ or above this improvement must be confirmed by a sleep clinic. Even more concerning is that sleep apnoea is a potential direct risk to your health.
Just to be clear though – not all snorers will have sleep apnoea and in fact, not all sleep apnoea sufferer’s snore but the two are very strongly linked.
Health risks of Sleep Apnoea
The direct health risks from sleep apnoea are significant and some are listed below:
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
High blood pressure (Hypertension) and sleep apnoea are definitely associated. There has been some struggle work out exactly which causes which and the time frames of these conditions. What is not in doubt is that both conditions are linked and, what is more, that this combination is not a healthy one.
Habitual snorers are more likely to have high blood pressure and this is the case for both men and women. Roughly half of those with regular snoring will develop high blood pressure – this may be caused by an increase in release of stress related hormones brought on by snoring. Both conditions are linked to an increased risk of non-fatal and fatal heart attacks and strokes. Those with hypertension have roughly 30-50% chance of having sleep apnoea and those with both are more likely to a treatment resistance for their blood pressure. More recent work has suggested that snoring, even without sleep apnoea, may have an impact on cardiovascular disease – possibly because of the repeated vibrations.
The good news is that if people are treated for their sleep apnoea it seems also to have a positive effect on their hypertension.
Cardiovascular Disease (CVD). CVD is the disease of the arteries that carry blood to the heart itself. The heart is a big muscle that pumps the blood around the body but as a muscle the heart itself needs a blood supply to the muscle tissue itself and disease of those arteries is what causes angina (Heart pain from a lack of oxygen) to a heart attack which is when the lack of oxygen is long enough and severe enough to kill off an area of heart muscle. Heart attacks can obviously be fatal and risk factors include hypertension, obesity and smoking. These last three things are all risks of causing snoring themselves but independent of that sleep apnoea itself is another risk factor for CVD. This creates a spider’s web of risks. All these factors should independently be addressed if you want to lower your risk of a heart attack.
Strokes (Cerebrovascular Accidents – CVAs)
Strokes are areas of brain death from an interrupted blood supply or bleed causing lack of oxygen. Most things that cause vascular problems to the heart are also related to vascular problems to the brain and this is the case here. Sleep apnoea may triple your chances of having a stroke by lowering the brain’s oxygen, raising blood pressure and preventing the brain from correcting the problems.
Type 2 Diabetes
Research at Yale University concluded that those who snore heavily are at 50% greater chance of contracting Type 2 Diabetes. This type of Diabetes is a further risk of heart attacks and strokes, which arguably further compounds the problems.
It isn’t too surprising that there is a link between snoring and weight. Being overweight increases the risk of snoring. Obstructive sleep apnoea may be as common as 45% in people who suffer obesity. The surprising fact is that studies have suggested that the reverse may be true and that snoring may have an adverse effect on your weight! This probably happens in more than one way. Small amounts of loss of sleep is enough to alter your body hormones and this may have an adverse effect on weight. In addition, people who feel more tired are more prone to reaching for sugary foods and drinks in an attempt to combat their tiredness.
Anxiety and Depression
Up to 50% of people referred for their snoring are reported to be suffering from depression and anxiety when tested with screening tests. The mechanism of this isn’t perfectly understood but poor sleep itself is very disruptive to individual’s mental health so it perhaps is not too surprising.
Attention and short-term concentration
Links have been found between the disordered breathing produced by snoring and attention and short-term concentration. On-line headings have suggested a link to dementia but this link has not currently been demonstrated.
Asthma is a breathing condition that is often worse at night when our own protective steroid hormones are at their lowest. Whilst obstructive sleep apnoea is not thought to cause asthma directly it may well worsen the condition for sufferers by increasing inflammation in the airways and from the general stress response it can create.
Fibromyalgia – a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body
Fibromyalgia is a very painful soft tissue pain disorder. It causes widespread discomfort and extreme fatigue in suffers. There does appear to be a link between obstructive sleep apnoea and fibromyalgia with a significant proportion of sufferers overlapping. However the cause of this is not yet well understood.
Studies have shown that men who consistently snore and have obstructive sleep apnoea are more likely to have erectile dysfunction and a reduced libido (sex-drive). These studies have suggested that 69% of men with sleep apnoea have erectile dysfunction. Again, there is a lack of clarity as to why this is but it is known that testosterone levels can dip in those with sleep apnoea and oxygen levels are also lower. These two factors may combine to be causative.
There are also links between sleep apnoea and other important conditions such as Parkinson’s, thyroid problems and Gastroesophageal reflux (GORD or GERD)
You might also be interested in:
Dr Pete Naylor is the inventor of Snorgo, a patent pending snoring cure made in the UK recommended by medical doctors.
- Wirral CCG Chair 2014 – 2016
- General Practitioner (GP) 2000-2017
- National Institute for health and Care Excellence National GP representative (Diagnostics) 2012 – 2018
- Associate Medical Director ICE Creates 2018 – 2020
- Senate Council Member Merseyside 2014 – 2017
- Forensic Medical Examiner Merseyside/Wirral 2005 – 2008
- Youth Justice Management Board Wirral 2015 – 2017
- Medical Director
- NHS Doctor 1996 – 2017
- GMC registered Doctor 1996 to present
- Master of Science in Medical Leadership Birkbeck University and Royal College of Physicians. (Awarded Merit) 2013
- OPP Myers Briggs Trainer, 2010. Subsequently also completed Step 2 to further support training
- Diploma in Occupational Health, 2006
- Diploma in Child Health, 2000
- Bachelor of Medicine & Surgery, Sheffield University, 1996
- Bachelor of Science, Psychiatric Neurobiology, Sheffield, 1995. Work produced papers on mRNA and Brain Plasticity.
- Outstanding Innovative and Inspirational Leader 2013 Northwest Leadership Academy (Given for commissioning work with Wirral Health Commissioning Consortium.)
- Vision Award 2012 (National award): Best Long Term Condition Initiative for WHCC
- North West Respiratory Best Practice Award 2012: Self Care Award for WHCC
- Diploma in Occupational Health – annual award