Snoring May Be Dangerous to Your Health

Snoring is generally considered to be a nuisance problem for the sleep partners of the 40% of adults who snore.  Sleep is disrupted and relationships are strained.  More importantly, recent evidence suggests that snoring may be associated with cardiovascular health risks, even in the absence of obstructive sleep apnea.

There are indications that the vibrations associated with snoring may affect the surrounding blood vessels of the neck and accelerate the development of atherosclerosis.  A study of snorers found that their carotid artery linings were thicker than that of non-snorers.  This may be associated with increased risk of stroke in people who snore.

Because at least 50% of snorers have obstructive sleep apnea(OSA), an overnight sleep study is recommended for all adults who complain of snoring.  Recent technological advances allow most sleep studies to be performed at home, in the comfort of the patient’s home bed.  If sleep apnea is confirmed, treatment is recommended, with CPAP as the most common 1st-line treatment.

However, if there is no evidence of sleep apnea, treatment for snoring should be considered, based on the recent medical evidence.  An overall assessment of the patient’s health and lifestyle should be performed, because obesity, alcohol use and nasal obstruction all contribute to snoring.  Weight loss, limiting alcohol consumption, and sleep positioning(sleeping on the side, not the back, may effectively reduce or eliminate snoring.

For patient with nasal congestion, treatment with nasal steroid sprays may help to reduce snoring.  For patients with a deviated nasal septum causing obstruction, a procedure to correct the deviated septum is effective.

In 85% of cases, the noise of snoring comes from the soft palate.  Minimally invasive techniques can increase palate stiffness and are performed in the office.  For patients whose snoring is caused by vibration of the walls of the throat or back of the tongue, use of an oral appliance to move the lower jaw forward during sleep is often very effective.

The bottom line is that snoring is not just affecting your partner’s sleep, it may be affecting your health.

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