When discussing the long term effects of snoring and the associated health risks I, like many people thought severe sleep apnea was a problem but '˜normal' snoring was just an inconvenience. So when I started to research this article I expected to find a few links to sleep apnea and nothing much else. Well that was a mistake. Google brought up almost 1.2 million sites.
Rather worryingly for one who is a long term snorer there are quite a number of serious risk linked to long term snoring. In a study carried out by the Henry Ford Hospital, researchers found that thickening of the carotid artery (often a precursor to hardening of the arteries) is the same as that found in smokers, those with diabetes, the overweight, those with high cholesterol and those with high blood pressure.
Causes of Snoring
There are a number of causes of snoring some of them are able to be remedied by changes to life style but others may need to use anti-snoring devices or in the worst cases, medical intervention. Among the causes are;
- A weakness in the throat that causes the throat to close during sleep
- Fat around and in the throat
- Misalignment of the jaw
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Alcohol or drugs relaxing the throat muscles
- Sleeping on the back
What are the Health Risks?
While snoring is not the only cause of the following health problems, it can increase your risk factor, sometimes significantly, particularly if snoring is combined with other risk factors.
A study published in the Journal of Sleep in March 2008 found that ''¦ loud snorers had a 40 percent greater risk than non-snorers of suffering from high blood pressure, 34 percent greater odds of having a heart attack and a 67 percent greater chance of having a stroke'.
How does Long Term Snoring Affect Your Health?
Increased Risk of Stroke
One sleep study in to snoring found that the intensity of snoring was related to an increased risk of carotid atherosclerosis. Carotid atherosclerosis is the narrowing of the neck arteries due to the deposits of plaque (fatty deposits).
Sleep apnea is often related to cardiovascular problems like coronary artery disease and high blood pressure which inevitably leads to possible heart attacks. Several studies have proven people with sleep apnea and long term snoring are about twice as likely to have heart disease and fatal heart attacks. Effective treatment can reduce the heart disease risk back to that of people without snoring problems
People suffering from either long term snoring or sleep apnea have an increased risk of developing an irregular heart rhythm (or arrhythmia). People with long term snoring or sleep apnea have a higher incidence of the most common form or arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation, than those who have no snoring problems or those whose snoring problems have been treated. The cause is believed to be linked to the enlargement of the heart's left atrium.
Gastro esophageal reflux disease, more commonly referred to as GERD, is extremely common when people suffer from sleep apnea or long term snoring. This is due to the way in which their throat opens and closes when snoring. It can cause pressure changes that can in effect suck back up the stomach contents in to the throat. Being overweight can make GERD worse. Weight reduction can reduce the symptoms.
Injury caused as a result of snoring may not seem to be an obvious health risk of long term snoring. In fact it is not the snoring that directly causes the injuries but the tiredness that inevitably follows long term snoring. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that '100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.' However, these figures are likely to be vastly underreported due the fact that there it is impossible to accurately attribute crashes to sleepiness.
Mental Health Issues
Everyone has the occasional sleepless night and is tired the next day. If the following night the sleep is caught up it is not usually a problem. It the lack of sleep goes on night after night due to long term snoring, this can lead to issues of mental health. These can range from irritability to depression, ranging from mild to serious. The link is still being examined but it has been shown that treating the snoring can reduce the depression.
Frequently waking up with a headache can often be traced back to long term snoring problems or sleep apnea. There are several likely causes such as tension, stress and lack of sleep. A further cause can be hypertension which can be exacerbated by snoring.
Sex and Snoring
An Australian study of 500 women who lived with men who snored found that 40% of respondents said that their husband's snoring had forced them to sleep in a different room and 21% said that it had affected their intimacy with their husband. 50% said that they were woken up at least once a night by their husbands snoring. If you are a snorer and have woken up with some bruises that you don't remember having, 79% of the women surveyed said that they had kicked or elbowed their husband to try and stop him snoring. A survey has yet to be carried out to ask men about wives who snore.
Not everyone who snores will have all or even any of these problems but, if you suffer from long term snoring the likelihood of increased risk of all of these diseases is raised. There are many steps that can be taken to reduce snoring, many of them not involving medical intervention. Removing some of the lifestyle causes, such as smoking, excess weight, alcohol and drugs, will certainly help. In some case a low cost mandibular adjustment device will help stop snoring. In the more serious cases dental or surgical or medical procedures may be necessary.