Is Your Snoring a Sign of a Bigger Problem?

Heather Sheehy, BAS, RRT, RPSGT, system director for ProMedica Sleep Center, is adamant that there is no such thing as “good” snoring.

“Whenever we snore, it means there is a partial obstruction in the airway,” Sheehy says. “Snoring may be caused by tonsils, adenoids or carrying extra weight. It is generally worse when you are sleeping on your back because extra weight around the throat and neck responds to gravity and compresses the airway. Snoring is not good, ever.”

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What happens when we snore?

It’s pretty simple, really. Snoring is the result of a partial obstruction of the airway, which can cause less air to move in and out of our lungs. This can result in lower levels of oxygen and higher levels of carbon dioxide in our bodies. In the sleep center we look at this as “shallow breathing.”

Is snoring dangerous?

It can be, yes. In fact, snoring is most often related to sleep apnea, which is the cessation of breathing for more than 10 seconds while sleeping. Sleep apnea can cause stress on the heart, exacerbating cardiovascular conditions. Being tired throughout the day is also a big indicator of sleep apnea, by the way.

Can snoring be deadly?

Snoring is a main indicator of sleep apnea and sleep apnea, if severe enough, can certainly cause death if the snorer does not wake up to breathe. When you hear of people who have heart attacks in their sleep, you have to ask: Was the cause of the attack just the heart or did the person also have untreated sleep apnea?

Should snoring always be addressed?

Yes. There is a huge correlation between cardiovascular disease and sleep apnea, and since snoring is an indicator for sleep apnea, it should never, ever be ignored. Untreated sleep apnea can complicate heart disease.

Should I be concerned if my child snores?

Yes. Children often have sleep studies done before and after tonsils and/or adenoids are removed to see if they suffer from sleep apnea.

Is there help for people who snore?

Yes. Everyone who snores really should have a sleep study done. If they are found to have sleep apnea, they can be prescribed CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) to fix the problem. If the issue is extra weight, it might be that all the person has to do to fix the problem is to lose weight. Using a CPAP machine can take some time to get used to, but for those who do get used to using the machine, they are amazed how good they feel using it.

Of course, before taking any action, Sheehy recommends seeing your primary physician. “Our ProMedica Sleep Center staffs are always here to help,” she says.

Could you be living with a sleep disorder? Click here to take the sleep assessment.

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