Does Snoring Indicate a Health Problem?

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

Snoring can be irritating to your bedmate and even housemates if you snore that loudly. Besides that, it could mean there is something wrong with your health. Most people learn they snore when they get kicked out of bed by their partner to spend nights on the couch or in the spare room. 

Besides the annoyance you cause your partner, snoring is unlikely to be a sign of health problems unless your partner notices that you periodically stop breathing while asleep.

I’m sure you’ve heard the famous myth that snoring is an indicator of deep sleep. That is pure nonsense. If you sleep silently, you will get deep sleep. Snoring should never be thought of as a part of deep and rejuvenating sleep. 

If people have been complaining all your life about your snoring, but there aren’t any signs of your breath periodically stopping, you are on the safe side. What is known as ‘witnessed apnoeas,’ the silent pauses between snores, is only one of the symptoms of a possible sleep disorder. If in any doubt, consult a sleep-trained professional.

But if you have never been known to snore and all of a sudden your bedmate is complaining about your insistent, loud snoring, that is cause for alarm, and you should urgently seek expert help. Consult your GP or a sleep-trained pharmacist.

The onset of snoring mostly means that there is an obstruction forming in your airway. Ensure that the person you are paying a visit has prior knowledge of snoring and sleep problems; this way, you will get proper help. 

What is snoring?

Snoring is noisy breathing that occurs when you are sleeping. The snoring sound is often harsh or hoarse. This sound occurs when air passes through relaxed tissues in your throat, causing a vibration. 

Most people snore occasionally, but it can be a significant health concern for others as it means they may be suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA). But to diagnose snoring as OSA, there are more symptoms that your doctor and partner will look out for. 

Snoring occurs in most people. An estimated 45 percent of adults snore occasionally, while 25 percent snore regularly—often disturbing their bed partner’s slumber and possibly their own, too. 

What causes snoring? 

Air restriction in your throat results in snoring. There are multiple reasons for snoring.

These include:

Poor muscle tone in the throat and tongue

When the throat, nose, and tongue muscles are too relaxed, they collapse and block the airways, leading to that loud throaty sound that we know as snoring. 

Blocked nasal airway

A stuffy nose could result in snoring because the congestion prevents air from flowing swiftly through your nose. Chronic nasal congestion is mainly caused by allergies or infection. A dry environment and having a deviated septum could also result in nasal congestion. 

If these factors that cause nasal congestion persist, it could lead to chronic snoring. A study shows that adults who frequently experience nasal congestion are three times more likely to be habitual snorers. Snoring caused by congestion could be treated by using nasal steroids or nasal decongestants. Consult your GP or a sleep-trained pharmacist.

Alcohol, cigarettes, and drug use

Using alcohol and other sedatives can result in snoring since they super-relax muscles that support tissue around the airways.

Chronic snorers, especially those who consume alcohol, tend to experience severe snoring.

Sleep experts and doctors recommend avoiding sedatives and alcohol in the hours leading to your bedtime to avoid snoring.

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Soft palate and or uvula

If you have an enlarged uvula (that triangular piece of tissue at the back of your throat), it tends to cause restriction in the airways preventing you from breathing well, thus resulting in snoring.

The only way to deal with enlarged tonsils or adenoids is by seeing a nose, throat, or ear specialist. Typically, you can’t access the above specialists directly so, visit a knowledgeable sleep-trained pharmacist

Sleep position

According to research, snorers who sleep on their side showed a decrease in frequency and intensity of snoring. When sleeping on your back, gravity pulls tissues surrounding your throat downwards, making the airway narrower and resulting in snoring. For patients who do not have OSA, positional therapy could help decrease snoring. 

Obstructive sleep apnoea

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a life-threatening condition that causes you to stop breathing momentarily at night because of a narrow airway or relaxed throat muscles. People with sleep apnoea typically snore loudly and have moments when they are silent (because they have stopped breathing), then they resume breathing by gasping for air. 

The snorer won’t notice this, but the bed partner will. It would seem reasonable to say that most people with OSA snore, but not all snorers suffer from OSA. If you are alone, other signs that could help you determine whether you have sleep apnoea or not are; weight gain, waking up tired, frequent urination at night, and morning headaches. 

Sleep deprivation

When you haven’t had enough sleep for an extended period, the next time you decide to rest, the muscles at the back of your throat may relax too much, causing a restriction or narrowing the airway, perhaps leading to snoring. 

Difference between Obstructive Sleep Apnoea and Snoring

Every snorer does not suffer from OSA, but almost every OSA sufferer snores. Everybody snores once in a while, and it shouldn’t be a cause for concern. But according to research estimates, 30% of females while 45% of men snore regularly.

Even though OSA involves snoring, there is more to it than just the hoarse sound resonating from your throat while you are asleep. Having OSA means that you will have moments in your sleep when you can’t breathe, followed by gasping for air, then going back to sleep. A bedmate will notice such changes. 

Risk factors for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

Nearly everyone snores occasionally, but the terrifying problem is developing sleep apnoea. Certain risk factors could contribute to developing OSA. These include: 

  • Obesity– Approximately two-thirds of people with sleep apnoea have obesity. Having excess weight leads to having extra tissue in the neck area. Research shows that a 10% increase in weight could increase the risk of developing sleep apnoea by six times. Fat deposits rest around your neck, often resulting in narrowing of the airway.
  • Being male– Men are three times more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnoea compared to women. On the other hand, being an overweight post-menopausal woman puts you at a higher risk of developing sleep apnoea. 
  • A family history of snoring– When you have one or more family members with OSA, your chances of developing sleep apnoea increase. 
  • Large neck and or enlarged tonsils – Having large tonsils affects your airways’ size, leading to more vibration. A bigger neck circumference contributes to higher risks of developing OSA.
  • Being older– Older adults tend to develop sleep apnoea compared to young people. A study shows that the prevalence of sleep apnoea increases with age. 
  • Hypothyroidism– Excessive hormonal secretion in the body leads to swelling of tissues near the airway and increases the risks of developing obesity. This study shows that even without weight increase, hypothyroidism increases the risk of developing OSA.

When does snoring indicate a health problem? 

We all snore at some point in our lives, but there are people whose snoring is excessive and will make you wonder if that’s normal. For example, growing up, I had an uncle that could snore through walls and doors, a deep rumble that would make you aware of his presence. I’ve never really understood whether he was suffering from OSA or simply snoring the night away. 

Anyways, snoring isn’t supposed to be alarming, not unless you weren’t a snoring person and suddenly your partner has started complaining that you are keeping them awake at night. 

Keeping your partner awake at night should be reason enough to visit a sleep-trained pharmacist, but some people require more reasons to see a doctor. 

If your bedmate notices a pattern where you stop snoring and breathing altogether in the middle of your zzzs and then regain breathing by gasping for air, then turning and going back to sleep, that is cause for alarm. 

This cycle of gasping for air at night then going back to sleep can be terrible for your health. Every time you stop breathing, then gasp for air, even though you won’t know it, you’ve woken up. OSA  interrupts your sleep pattern. You will wake up feeling extremely tired and unmotivated as if you didn’t have any sleep. 

If you are alone and wondering how to know you have OSA, visit a sleep-trained pharmacist or doctor and explain how you feel.

Most patients visiting a sleep specialist note that their partner is complaining about their snoring. No one ever goes in thinking they have sleep apnoea. So, if you’re snoring, you should see a sleep-trained pharmacist and get that doubt crossed out or treated if you have OSA. 

Does snoring mean you are healthy? 

I know you may be wondering, does snoring indicate a health problem? Sometimes, snoring is nothing but a nuisance to your bed partner. In the long run, it could interfere with the sleep patterns of your bedmate, which isn’t such a nice thing to do. But snoring could also interfere with your own sleep quality. 

Snoring sounds like a harmless issue, but it could indicate Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, raising other dire health problems. The only safe step you could take when you have insistent snoring is to visit a sleep-trained pharmacist to have the issue looked into. 

Snoring is a risk factor for developing OSA. So, if you can catch it earlier, it could help get the proper treatment to prevent the onset of OSA and extend your healthy life.,

What health problems are caused by snoring?

Snoring could result in other dire health problems if it’s not taken care of. These health issues include: 

  • Stroke- A research study found that intense snoring could increase the risk of carotid atherosclerosis (the narrowing of arteries in the neck due to fatty deposits, resulting in a stroke).
  • Poor sleep quality- Often, snorers rouse themselves from sleep, especially if it’s heavy snoring. The problem with this is that it prevents you from acquiring deep rest when sleeping. Lack of sufficient sleep often results in emotional, mental health, and other health problems affecting the quality of your life. 
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)– Snoring may be a sign of OSA, which leads to other dire health problems like; heart attack, hypertension, stroke, and cardiovascular problems. OSA causes your body to stop breathing for short periods during sleep involuntarily. During OSA, blood oxygen levels drop instantly, causing a strain in your cardiovascular system and increasing blood pressure.
  • Heart problems- Even if you don’t have OSA snoring on its own could result in thickening and abnormalities in the carotid artery. This results from the inflammation caused by the vibrations when you snore, leading to heart abnormalities and problems. 
  • Headaches– According to research, there is a link between habitual snoring and persistent headaches. Additionally, sleep deprivation caused by snoring could result in headaches. 
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Is there a cure for snoring?

There are various over-the-counter devices said to help with snoring, but most of them don’t have any evidence to support their claims. If you are an occasional snorer, here are some tips that could help you get rid of snoring:

  • Lose excess weight and adopt healthy eating habits. Weight loss could help reduce the surplus tissue and fatty deposits in your neck that cause restricting airways. It is also better for your general health when you maintain a healthy weight. 
  • Avoid sedatives, alcohol, and sleep medications (benzodiazepines). These drugs tend to cause your airways tissue to relax, worsening your snoring. 
  • Try sleeping on your side instead of your back which tends to push your tongue to the back of your mouth, causing snoring.
  • Have a regular bedtime; this will prevent you from suffering from sleep deprivation which typically results in snoring.
  • Raise the head of your bed four inches. Don’t just use pillows; make sure to raise the whole bed. 

If the above snoring remedies do not work, you will need someone to help observe you at night for pauses in breathing to help you know your diagnosis. Many sleep centres help with determining the cause of snoring and how to proceed. Visit your sleep-trained pharmacist who is well versed with sleep problems or your GP. 

Final Words 

Snoring is a common occurrence as every household must have experienced a snorer. For the most part, snoring isn’t a cause for concern. Still, when it becomes persistent or you notice periods of silence in between snores, you should visit a pharmacist with sleep knowledge or your doctor to find a way forward to solving your snoring problem. 

Even if you don’t think you suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, you should still have to see a sleep-trained pharmacist to find solutions to snoring as it may interfere with the quality of your sleep and that of others in your home, resulting in sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation could also cause health problems. 

To help you, we have put together a couple of contacts for professionals knowledgeable in sleep problems. They can help you solve your snoring problems. 

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