Is snoring dangerous?
Snoring on its own is usually considered a harmless – albeit highly disruptive – phenomenon, but for some people it indicates a more serious underlying medical condition or sleep disorder. Roughly 57% of adult men and 40% of women snore and about 10-12% of children also experience snoring while sleeping, according to Sleep Disorders Australia.
Snoring is considered the chief symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep-related breathing disorder that causes people to choke or gasp for air in their sleep.
Snoring may accompany apnea-hypopnea episodes or occur independently during the night. Excessive daytime sleepiness from not getting enough rest is another common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
These are some of the risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea:
- Obesity: Obese people may be susceptible to obstructive sleep apnea if they have fat deposits around the neck that restrict the upper airway.
- Enlarged tonsils or adenoids: Due to their placement around the upper airway, tonsils and adenoids can both block the upper airway if they are large enough.
- Endocrine disorders: The endocrine system releases hormones that can interfere with breathing during sleep. Hypothyroidism, a condition characterised by low levels of thyroid hormone, and acromegaly, which causes high growth hormone levels, are both associated with sleep apnea. Hypogonadism, a condition with decreased testosterone production, when treated with testosterone replacement treatment, can worsen sleep apnea in men.
- Genetic syndromes: Some genetic syndromes affect how the face and jaw are structured, leading to airway restriction. Some examples include cleft lip and cleft palate, Down syndrome, and congenital central hypoventilation syndrome.
Testing and treatment
Although many people snore, only very few usually seek help to understand if that might be an indication of a sleep disorder. A test to rule out more serious things like sleep apnea is usually recommended before any treatment. If a positive diagnosis for sleep apnea is confirmed, there are a number of medical treatments available, which should always be recommended by a specialist.