Can Snoring Be Deadly?

Snoring is more than just an irritating condition. It's a symptom of something more deadly. What is sleep apnea?

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Forty-five percent of adults snore occasionally, and as many as one-in-four do it regularly. It's more common in men, people who are overweight, and it tends to get worse as people get older. It can cause major sleep disruptions--not just for the person doing the snoring, but for their sleeping partners as well. It's caused when the muscles of the throat, mouth and airways relax, become narrowed, and vibrate as incoming breath tries to squeeze through this skinny passage.

If you've ever slept in the same bed as someone who snores, you know it can be as annoying as nails on a chalkboard (especially if you're a light sleeper), but snoring is harmless. The journal Laryngoscope found some serious side effects. For some, it causes a thickening of the arteries in the heart. It can cause headaches and memory loss. If you snore so loud, you can wake yourself up, which is a condition known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Apnea is when you stop breathing during sleep. The lack of oxygen causes people suffering from this to literally jolt awake gasping for air.

A study published in the journal American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that people suffering from severe apnea have a 30 percent higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes than those with almost no apnea. Another study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine followed a group of apnea patients for 20 years. They found that they were four times more likely to have a stroke, three times more likely to die from cancer, and two-and-a-half times more likely to develop cancer. Fortunately, people with apnea can manage their condition by wearing a "continuous positive airway pressure" (CPAP) machine to sleep. If you think you might have sleep apnea, you should definitely see your doctor.

Learn More:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Severity Linked With Death Risk (The Huffington Post)
"Researchers found that the death rate was higher in the groups of people with more severe sleep apnea, compared with less severe or no sleep apnea."

Why Do People Snore? (Scientific American)
"Snoring is not an illness, but it is a symptom. Just as a cough can be a symptom of pneumonia, snoring can be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea."

Sonar App Listens For Signs Of Sleep Apnea (Futurity)
"A new app that uses a smartphone to wirelessly test for sleep apnea may be able to detect whether your snoring is just annoying or a potentially life-threatening problem."