Snoring is a loud emission of noise that is a result of a blockage in the air passage that obstructs air flow. The blockage is either in the nasal passage or in the throat and causes the larynx to vibrate abnormally, emitting the sound of snoring. When the obstruction is nasal, this is most likely due to allergies, colds or a deviated septum. When the obstruction is in the throat, it is almost always caused by the tongue falling back and blocking air flow.
Snoring and sleep apnea are two separate conditions. Occasional snoring is a nuisance and can lead to increased risk of heart disease as well, however chronic snoring or sleep apnea is a deadly condition that deprives the body of necessary levels of oxygen.
Chronic snoring is often diagnosed as sleep apnea, a condition that does much more than interrupt sleep. When someone snores, they are taking in less air, and so less oxygen, than someone who does not snore. With less oxygen being taken into the lungs, the body is unable to function as well as someone who does not snore, and therefore has a higher oxygen intake during sleep. Oxygen is taken in by red blood cells and pumped through the body by the heart, which is strengthened by higher levels of oxygen. When oxygen intake is low, the heart is unable to work as efficiently and it struggles. This leads to dozens of other problems that affect the body and its function.
When the heart is forced to work harder because of a lack of oxygen, the snorer’s blood pressure becomes elevated. As the snorer essentially struggles to breathe throughout the night, blood pressure soars and arteries become clogged. Abnormal blood pressure leads to stroke as blood vessels in the brain are eventually weakened as well as the formation of blood clots. Blood clots can cause an aneurism or stroke, both of which can be fatal or have irreparable consequences. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is virtually symptomless and difficult to detect without a blood pressure test. This is a cardiovascular issue, common to those with chronic snoring or sleep apnea, and eventually leads to heart attack.
Stroke caused from an increase in plaque in the throat, or carotid atherosclerosis, is another repercussion of chronic snoring. As you snore, the arteries in the neck become thinner and thinner, allowing for greater plaque build-up which leads to stroke. A stroke cuts off the brain’s blood supply, causing damage, sometimes irreparable or even fatal. Additionally, a snorer can suffer from arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat that can cause further problems. A regular heartbeat ensures that the heart is pumping blood easily and efficiently. When breathing is repeatedly interrupted throughout the night, the heart receives less oxygen and is unable to beat in a regular rhythm. This also eventually leads to heart disease which accounts for millions of deaths every year.
Aside from the negatives effects of lack of oxygen to the body, snorers can suffer from a multitude of other disorders such as GERD. Gastroesophageal reflux disease is common in people with chronic snoring because snoring can lead to pressure changes in the esophagus, which can bring the stomach contents up into the throat. This causes a burning sensation, nausea and vomiting, causing more discomfort than the snoring itself.
Other repercussions include mental health issues, daytime dysfunction, fatigue, and weight gain sometimes leading to obesity. Snoring has even been linked to the development of type II diabetes which is also linked to obesity. Obesity is a common factor to heart disease as well and is also common to snorers.