We’ve all been there: Trying to fall asleep when your bed buddy starts sounding the snore train. Snoring is annoying, there’s no question, but it can also be a red flag for more serious health issues. But before you go WebMD-ing the nighttime affliction, you should understand what snoring actually is, why not all snoring is created equal, and what your snoring means for you.
What is snoring?
We aren’t going to get too scientific on you. It’s just important to understand that snoring is a form of sleep-disordered breathing. When we sleep, the muscles in our mouth and throat relax; when they relax, your trachea (the airway that carries air to and from your lungs) narrows. When it narrows, two things happen: 1. The airflow to and from your lungs is diminished, and 2. The tissues of your soft palate (the roof of your mouth at the back) and your uvula shake, rattle and roll. That vibration causes the annoying noise we know as snoring.
We don’t all snore because a relaxed trachea is perfectly normal. But other factors, from the shape of your mouth and throat to your age, weight and lifestyle, all contribute to whether or not you snore while you snooze.
I snore, so what?!
Snoring isn’t necessarily cause for concern, but it can be; it’s linked to increased risk of various (and serious) health issues, including:
You may know that excess weight contributes to snoring—but it works in reverse, too. Snoring can actually cause us to gain weight because our quality of sleep is compromised, and sleep is essential to maintaining a balanced body that resists cravings, bingeing and weight gain.
Popping pills for headaches every day? One study shows that 24% of chronic headache sufferers were also habitual snorers! Snoring prevents your body from inhaling enough oxygen, so carbon dioxide builds in your blood, causing headaches, memory issues and mood changes.
It’s no secret that sleeping well at night helps us focus well through the day. As our sleep quality goes down, so does our ability to focus, make responsible decisions and react quickly. Even if you’re not operating heavy machinery, poor-quality sleep can put you and your colleagues at risk of accidents and injury.
Heart Disease & Stroke
Snoring strains the heart, plain and simple. And if your snoring is a side effect of sleep apnea, it’s even more likely to contribute to high blood pressure, which can lead to cardiovascular disease, a common precursor for heart attacks and strokes.
Mental Health Issues
Sleep and mental health go hand in hand. While poor-quality sleep can worsen symptoms of depression and make us more vulnerable to stress and anxiety, research shows that treating sleep disorders can actually improve co-occurring mental health issues.
Snoring can also be a symptom of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which is a more serious form of sleep-disordered breathing marked by periodic stops in breathing. Yes, stops—when the airway closes and temporarily cuts off airflow. When that airway closes, your brain triggers an arousal response, interrupting your sleep. These interruptions can be occasional with mild sleep apnea or frequent with severe sleep apnea—and by “frequent,” we’re talking up to 600 interruptions a night! Thing is, you may not even know your sleep was interrupted 600 times. Snoring is sneaky like that.
So, what do I do?
If you’re a regular snorer, be safe and tell your doctor—especially if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms. She may recommend a sleep study to get to the bottom of why you’re snoring (because it’s different for everyone). Even if you’ve been snoring since the Queen was crowned, it’s never too late to seek treatment and reduce your risk of more serious health issues. The good news: You do not need a referral from your doctor to book a free at-home sleep assessment with us—so what are you waiting for?