Sometimes, you snore at night. Snoring is a pretty common problem, and for many people, it’s not that big of a deal. Your partner might elbow you, you might roll over and the snoring stops. But, there is a possibility for snoring to be a big concern. If you snore every night, you might be at risk for a number of health issues. Snoring can interfere with your life in a number of ways.
Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea, a type of sleep disorder. When a person has sleep apnea, he or she stops breathing for short periods throughout the night. Why a person might stop breathing depends on the type of sleep apnea he or she has. In the case of obstructive sleep apnea, the throat is closed off or collapses when a person sleeps, so that air can’t get through. Since the airway is restricted, it’s common for people to snore when they try to take a breath.
A less common form of the condition is central sleep apnea, which occurs when the brain doesn’t send the appropriate signals to breathe when a person sleeps. Some people also have a combined form of central and obstructive sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea can be difficult to diagnose, since it happens while someone is sleeping, but getting a diagnosis and treatment, usually with a C-PAP machine, which forces the airway open, is important for avoiding long term consequences. Without treatment, sleep apnea and snoring increases a person’s risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity.
People with sleep apnea are likely to have drops in the levels of oxygen in their bloodstream. The reduced oxygen levels can raise blood pressure and put strain on the circulatory system, which increases the risk for heart attack, heart murmurs and heart failure. In the worst cases, the low oxygen levels in the blood can be fatal.
Snoring and sleep apnea can also increase a person’s risk for stroke. The more a person snores, or the louder the snores, the higher the risk for atherosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries because of plaque build up. The build up of plaque raises the risk for stroke.
Sleep Issues and Snoring
Whether the snoring is related to sleep apnea or not, it can interfere with a person’s sleep, and with the sleep of a partner or even anyone else in the same house. A lack of sleep can cause a number of problems for a snorer in the long run. For example, not getting an adequate amount of sleep can interfere with your ability to do your job to the best of your ability. When you don’t get enough sleep, you tend to get sick more frequently, which can lead to calling out at work more, or worse, going into the office when you aren’t feeling your best.
Sleep deprivation can have a number of other long term effects on your health and overall well being. It makes it difficult to concentrate and remember things. It can also increase your risk for an accident, either when driving or at home or work.
Plus, not getting enough sleep also increases your risk for a number of health conditions, including heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure, the risk for which is also increased by snoring. Finally, not getting enough sleep affects your mental health and well being, and can increase the risk for or make conditions such as depression worse.
Memory Problems and Snoring
Recent research suggests that people with sleep apnea might have more difficulty retaining short term memory. When a the brains of about 100 patients were scanned with an MRI, the patients who had sleep apnea tended to have mammillary bodies, which is where memories are formed, that were 20 percent smaller than the mammillary bodies of non-sleep apnea patients. The finding suggests that sleep apnea and long-term snoring can actually damage the brain and make it more difficult to create and recall memories.
What You Can Do
What you can do about a severe snoring problem depends on the cause of the snoring. Some patients see an improvement after losing weight, while others see the most benefit after a surgical intervention. If you snore and have sleep apnea, treating the sleep apnea is far more important and will usually help with the snoring.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a common treatment for sleep apnea. A CPAP machine is a typically a mask that is worn over the nose while a person sleeps. The mask introduces slightly pressurized air into the airway, keeping it open and reducing snoring and breathing pauses.
About Dr. Rubinstein
Whether your snoring is a major problem or not, seeing surgeon who specializes in snoring treatments is a good idea. In the Hudson Vally, Dr. Rubinstein has been helping patients for almost sixteen years. He received his board certifications through the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery and is also a member of the American Society for Laser Medicine & Surgery, and an Assistant Professor at New York Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Rubinstein at the Hudson Valley Sinus Center, call 845-562-6673.