Snoring May Mean Serious Health Risks

Long the fodder of jokes among couples and comedians, snoring—it appears—is no laughing matter. Researchers from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit believe snoring could be an early warning sign of cardiovascular disease. These findings—on the risks of snoring—were presented earlier this year at the Triological Society in Scottsdale, Arizona (January 2013).

Exploring Snoring

Snoring is a common problem—affecting between 30 and 50 percent of the population, according to estimates. It is not an illness but a symptom in much the same way that wheezing can be symptomatic of asthma. The characteristic—and often annoying sound—is produced by the vibrating structures of the upper airway, which includes the tongue and tonsils.

Sleep apnea however is different from habitual or occasional snoring. It is a disorder that causes airways in the throat to collapse resulting in long pauses in breathing during sleep. Other studies have already proven that snoring caused by obstructive sleep apnea can affect cardiovascular health.

To find out if the snoring risks apply to snoring without sleep apnea, researchers looked at data from close to 1,000 patients who participated in a sleep study to see what patterns exist.

The Link Between Snoring and Health

"Our study shows a potential link between snoring and the thickening of the walls of the carotid arteries," explains study author Robert Deeb, MD, who is affiliated with Henry Ford's Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. "We wanted to perform ultrasounds of these vessels to see if changes were taking place."

Their findings reveal that the vibration and inflammation caused by snoring may be thickening the arterial walls, eventually leading to hardening of the arteries and an increased risk of being affected by cardiovascular disease.

The Risks of Snoring

"The main take-away from our study is that snoring should not be ignored. Health insurers often regard snoring as little more than a cosmetic issue but our study shows it may actually lead to adverse health," Deeb says, adding, "Next we are going to perform additional research to see if snoring is associated with increased risk of stroke."

What You Can Do To Stop Snoring

If you snore while you sleep it's worth taking steps to address your snoring problem. While you can't simply "will" yourself to stop snoring, changing some lifestyle factors may reduce the occurrence of snoring. Losing weight, becoming more active, and avoiding alcohol use before bedtime can all help minimize your risk of snoring.

Some people may also benefit from attending a sleep clinic to gain insight about the way they sleep and combat the snoring issue. In addition, it's always a good idea to check with your doctor for other suggestions on how to put your snoring to sleep for good and reduce your health risks.

Robert Deeb, MD, reviewed this article.



Deeb, Robert MD, Henry Ford Hospital, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck, Detroit, Michigan. Email interview. 18 Feb. 2013.

Science Daily. "Don't Ignore the Snore: Snoring May Be Early Sign of Future Health Risks." Web. 24 Jan. 2013.