December 12, 2022 3 min read
According to the Encyclopedia of Sleep, nearly half of all adults snore occasionally, while around 36% are habitual snorers. With snoring being so widespread, it’s not surprising many see it as an inevitable part of aging and nothing more than a nuisance.
But the reality is much grimmer, unfortunately. Snoring — especially when it’s loud and frequent — can lead to a host of health problems. More specifically, snoring is associated with a higher risk of coronary heart disease and a five times increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). But can snoring be deadly?
Snoring is loud breathing during sleep that happens as a result of an obstructed upper airway. Problems that can cause a blocked airway include allergies, upper respiratory infections, enlarged tonsils, a deviated septum, and excess neck fat, to name a few.
Most cases of snoring are benign, thankfully, and tend to resolve on their own. But heavy snoring usually tends to get worse over time, especially if left untreated. In some cases, this chronic upper airway resistance can progress into OSA, a serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops during sleep.
Why does this all matter? Because severe snoring and especially OSA can seriously disrupt your sleep architecture by depriving the brain of much-needed oxygen. When you don’t breathe normally during sleep, the brain reacts by briefly arousing you from sleep. Sufferers usually aren’t aware this is happening, but their chronically sleep-deprived bodies inevitably develop dangerous health problems.
In and of itself, snoring does not cause death by, say, making sufferers suffocate in their sleep. But it is true that it can be deadly.
As already explained, severe snoring and OSA disrupt sleep, and sleep is essential for your health and survival. Without adequate sleep, research shows you are more likely to develop a plethora of health problems:
And if that isn’t alarming enough, an epidemiological study of more than 77,000 patients who underwent a portable sleep study in Illinois found that snoring was strongly associated with a greater risk of early death, and that was even true for snoring not due to OSA.
Absolutely! Depending on the cause and severity of your snoring, you can benefit from conservative measures, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, oral appliances, or surgery.
Conservative measures to treat snoring include avoiding alcohol and sleeping pills, quitting smoking, and avoiding sleeping on your back. Alcohol and sedatives make the muscles that keep your upper airway open relax too much, potentially blocking airflow. Smoking causes inflammation of the upper airways, which increases your propensity to snore. Back sleeping is also more likely to make you snore due to the effects of gravity on your upper airway.
CPAP therapy is the gold standard and most effective non-surgical treatment for OSA. It involves using a face mask connected to a machine that applies constant air pressure to the upper airways to keep them open.
However, not everyone is a candidate for CPAP therapy, and some people find this treatment hard to follow. In these cases, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine recommend oral appliances as viable treatment options. Oral appliances include mandibular advancement devices (MADs) and tongue stabilizing or retaining devices like the Good Morning Snore Solution.
And as a last resort, you may be a candidate for several surgeries that correct anatomical abnormalities that can cause or worsen sleep apnea.
Park JG. Snoring. Encyclopedia of Sleep 2013: 265-268. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780123786104003193
Yap YY. Evaluation and Management of Snoring.Sleep Med Clin. 2022;17(1):25-39.doi:10.1016/j.jsmc.2021.10.010
Worley SL. The Extraordinary Importance of Sleep: The Detrimental Effects of Inadequate Sleep on Health and Public Safety Drive an Explosion of Sleep Research. P T. 2018;43(12):758-763.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6281147/
Rich J, Raviv A, Raviv N, Brietzke SE. An epidemiologic study of snoring and all-cause mortality.Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2011;145(2):341-346.doi:10.1177/0194599811402475
American Sleep Medicine. Snoring. Accessed October 2022.
Trenchea M, Deleanu O, Suţa M, Arghir OC. Smoking, snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.Pneumologia. 2013;62(1):52-55.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23781575/#:~:text=Since%20snoring%20is%20frequent%20in,may%20be%20associated%20with%20OSA.
Ramar K, Dort LC, Katz SG, et al. Clinical Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Snoring with Oral Appliance Therapy: An Update for 2015.J Clin Sleep Med. 2015;11(7):773-827. Published 2015 Jul 15.doi:10.5664/jcsm.4858
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