Is Snoring Dangerous for Your Health?

February 15, 2023

Is Snoring Dangerous for Your Health?

It is estimated that 45% of the adult population snores on occasion, so much so that snoring and sleep often go hand-in-hand. Snoring occurs as air passes through soft tissues in the throat during inhalation and exhalation. The passage of air results in vibrations from the tissue that produces the sound sleep partners hear. Nearly everyone has experienced snoring at least once; however, for those who experience chronic snoring episodes, it could be an indicator of potentially serious health problems.

What is Snoring?

During sleep, the tissues in the back of the throat become relaxed. As air passes, it creates vibrations that produce the sounds your bed partner relays as snoring. Snoring sounds can come from the nasal passages, or through the mouth, and may sound like whispers, loud rumbling, or snorting. Some experience loud snoring that may wake them from a deep sleep, while others are not bothered by the noises.

Symptoms of Snoring

Snoring is often associated with common disorders that result in disrupted sleep, but many people do not know they are snoring unless their partner’s sleep becomes affected. For those who live alone, or whose bed partners have not expressed that they are snoring, there are a few symptoms that can help you understand if you are snoring:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • A sore throat upon waking in the morning
  • Restless sleep
  • A poor attention span
  • Behavioral problems, especially in children

The most common sleep disorder associated with snoring is obstructive sleep apnea. This snoring and sleep disorder, when left untreated, can lead to high blood pressure, chest pain, and waking up gasping throughout the night, due to pauses in breathing.

What Causes Snoring?

As you sleep, your airway narrows as tissues begin to relax. This narrowing, alongside the vibrations of inhalation and exhalation, produces snoring sounds. Some people are at an increased risk of snoring, due to the irregular size and shape of the soft tissue and throat muscles. There are other risk factors associated with increased snoring, including:

  • Obesity
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Medications
  • Enlarged tonsils, tongue, or soft palate
  • Nasal polyps
  • Deviated septum
  • Pregnancy

What is the Difference Between Sleep Apnea and Snoring?

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder affecting nearly 18 million Americans each year. Sleep apnea is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that results in brief pauses in breathing as you sleep. There are two main types of sleep apnea:

  • Central sleep apnea happens when the brain doesn’t send the appropriate messages (i.e. signals) to the muscles that control breathing. When these signals are interrupted, or fail to send, the muscles controlling breathing fail to function, causing breathing to stop.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common type of sleep apnea, occurs when the throat muscles become too relaxed, and cause a physical obstruction, or blockage of the airway.

Snoring, while not dangerous by itself, is one of the most common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. Snoring associated with obstructive sleep apnea tends to be loud, and sounds like snorting, choking, or gasping.

Is Snoring Dangerous?

Light or occasional snoring does not pose a risk for health issues, though it can jolt those even in a light sleep awake. Long-term snoring holds a higher risk of conditions like high blood pressure, mental health issues, cardiovascular problems, and other health problems.

Primary snoring is defined as snoring that occurs more than 3 nights per week. This type of snoring is more disruptive to your bed partner, and may leave you waking feeling tired; however, it does not generally result in serious health issues.

Snoring associated with obstructive sleep apnea is more dangerous than light or primary snoring, as breathing stops during the night. When left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can lead to an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, extreme daytime sleepiness, increased risk of heart attacks, and even early death.

Health Risks Associated with Snoring

Several health risks are associated with snoring.

Heart Disease

Individuals who suffer from sleep apnea or chronic, intense snoring are two times more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease, or even a potentially fatal heart attack. Cardiovascular disease, also known as heart disease, is a variety of conditions that can cause blood clots, structural abnormalities of the heart, and diseases within the blood vessels. Commonly diagnosed heart diseases include high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, and cardiac arrest.

Cerebrovascular Accident

A CVA, often referred to as a stroke, is a true medical emergency caused by interrupted blood flow to the brain, resulting in brain damage. Intense, long-term snoring can lead to the narrowing of the arteries in the neck due to a buildup of plaque (atherosclerosis), increasing the risk of blood flow blockages.

Mental Health Disorders

Whether you sleep for 10 interrupted hours a night, or only get 4 hours of sleep, your quality of sleep and mental health will suffer. Without an adequate amount of healthy sleep, the brain and other parts of the body begin to suffer, leading to increased crankiness, anxiety, depression, and daytime tiredness.

How is Snoring Diagnosed?

For most, snoring is recognized when your sleep partner expresses to you that you are interrupting their sleep with your loud noises. While not all cases of snoring require treatment, it may warrant a trip to the family doctor for further evaluation. During the appointment, your doctor will begin by asking you and your partner how often you are snoring, what it sounds like, if you have had recent weight gain, and if you experience apneic episodes.

Your current diet and lifestyle will be assessed, your blood pressure and heart rate and rhythm assessed, and a polysomnogram may be ordered. A polysomnogram, or sleep study, allows your care team to study brain waves, sleep patterns, heart rate, oxygen levels, and body movements during the night to provide an accurate diagnosis.

How is Chronic Snoring Treated?

Not all cases of snoring require treatment, but for those who experience daytime fatigue, or frequently interrupt their partner's sleep, sleep medicine treatment may include:

Non-Surgical Treatment

  • Lifestyle changes. Simple lifestyle changes may be implemented to alleviate snoring, and help you wake feeling well-rested. These changes often include:
    • Avoiding or limiting the amount of alcohol being consumed too close to bedtime.
    • Trying a new sleep position.
    • Losing weight to maintain a healthy BMI.
  • Medication
    • Sleep medicine can help your mind and body relax, allowing you to drift off to sleep more easily.
    • Using over-the-counter nasal decongestants can help to alleviate sinus pressure or drainage that may be keeping you up at night, or blocking your airway.
  • Oral appliances. Appliances like a mouth guard are often recommended by sleep specialists to help keep the lower jaw in the right place, allowing for optimal airflow.
  • Continuous positive airway pressure. Known as a CPAP, people with sleep apnea use this device to help them breathe better, and reduce snoring while sleeping.

Surgical Treatment

  • Somnoplasty, or radio frequency ablation therapy, uses radio frequency energy to decrease the size of large soft palate tissue, allowing for better airflow.
  • A tonsillectomy is performed by a skilled ear, nose, and throat specialist to remove the tonsils when they become problematic. Many children have their tonsils removed at an early age, due to sleep-disordered breathing, which can lead to sleep disturbances, behavioral issues, and a decreased attention span.
  • An adenoidectomy is performed to remove the adenoids from the back of the nose. This allows for more open nasal passages for optimal breathing.

Treating sleep apnea can help reduce or eliminate snoring, and help those that are sleep deprived as a result of the condition.

How to Prevent Snoring

Snoring impacts millions of sleepers each year, but it does not have to affect you. The sleep specialists at Eco Terra are here to help you begin sleeping better immediately! Our experts have spent ample time determining the main causes of snoring, and how to prevent snoring to help you get a good night’s sleep.

  • Take nasal decongestants to alleviate nasal congestion that may block nasal passages, making it more difficult to breathe.
  • Avoid alcohol too close to bedtime.
  • Maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.
  • Elevate your head while sleeping with a pillow that will help to maintain proper spinal alignment, or alternatively, get an adjustable bed.
  • Change your sleeping position to side sleeping, rather than sleeping flat on your back.

Buying the perfect mattress is an investment in better sleep and better health, which is why it is a decision that should not be taken lightly. We offer a 90-night trial period with free delivery and pickup should you choose to return the product.

At Eco Terra, we utilize high-quality, certified organic latex to create a blissful sleep oasis, free from chemicals, toxins, and polyurethane. Our hybrid latex mattress is handcrafted in the United States with organic latex, surrounding a fabric-encased coil core for optimal comfort and support. The breathable cotton cover will help to regulate your body temperature throughout the night as you drift from one sleep stage to the next.

Patrick Gunther

Patrick is an accomplished writer. He has been in the retail mattress space for the past 13 years, and more specifically in the natural mattress niche. He blogs on the subjects of natural mattresses, sleep, health, fitness, and green living.