Why Snoring Is Not A Good Thing For You or Your Partner: Snoring Explained
Snoring is the stuff of legends, comedic legends, especially those that can mimic the infinite variety of snoring sounds. In some cultures, snoring is even considered normal. However, scientific data suggests that it is not innocuous but can have health hazards as well. Besides causing disruption in the partners sleep and friction in otherwise happy couples, snoring may be a harbinger of obstructive sleep apnea.
WHAT IS SNORING AND WHERE DO THE SOUNDS COME FROM?
Snoring is an audible vibratory sound emanating predominantly from the throat and sometimes the nose. During sleep, especially in supine position or when we are laying on our backs, the tongue and the soft palate lose their muscle tone and become a lot more relaxed. Due to the force of gravity and the negative pressure create during inspiration, the back of the tongue (also called tongue base), the tonsils and the soft palate especially the uvula, vibrate against the back wall of the throat producing sound.
In individuals that have more fatty tissue in the neck, big tonsils or a neck circumference greater than 16 inches and a BMI of greater than 35, the risk of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea is much higher. Snoring is worse in individuals that have a stuffy nose from sinusitis, allergies, deviation of the septum. Enlargement of inferior turbinates or the lower shelves of bone in the nose from weather changes, allergies, rhinitis, chemical fumes causes nasal obstruction and may be responsible for much of the snoring as well. Nasal steroid sprays can improve this congestion.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH HAZARDS OF SNORING OR SLEEP APNEA?
There is some data that snoring itself could cause heart issues over time but the most important reason for getting a workup done for snoring is to make sure that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is not present. Obstructive sleep apnea is when the individual stops breathing more than 5 times/hour at night due to blockage in the throat area and then wakes up gasping or gasps at the end of the stoppage in breathing.
OSA, especially moderate to severe sleep apnea, is a huge heath concern because it increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, sudden death and stroke by as much as 5-7 times normal. Not only that, the lack of sleep associated with loud snoring and sleep apnea, results in daytime sleepiness and fatigue increasing the risk of accidents either at work or during driving.