Snoring is so common, it can be easy for people to write it off as NBD—no big deal. If you were to remind those blasé-about-snoring folks that the noise of snoring is annoying and disruptive, that snorers often feel tired in the morning, and that their bed mates feel tired and frustrated, you’d probably get them to concede that those things are all, in fact, pretty big deals. But still, a lot of people don’t consider snoring a red alert for mental or physical health problems.
Scientific evidence is increasingly showing us that there is no such thing as simple snoring. We wrote recently about how snoring can affect men’s sexual health. (It affects women’s sex lives, too.) And snoring is linked to a number of other health issues.
High blood pressure. About 75 million American adults have high blood pressure, which elevates their risk for heart disease and stroke. There’s new research out about the connection between high blood pressure and snoring. According to a study published earlier this year, snoring is a risk factor for high blood pressure. The scientists found that in middle aged adults, snoring is a strong predictor of high blood pressure.
Depression and anxiety. Both depression and anxiety have been linked to sleep-disordered breathing, of which snoring is one form. Sleeping poorly—whether not getting enough sleep or experiencing restless and poor-quality sleep—has been strongly linked to increased risks for depression and anxiety. And snoring is one common cause of poor sleep, both for snorers and for bed partners.
Metabolic syndrome. This is a condition that’s actually made up of a group of conditions that occur together, including high blood pressure, high triglycerides or cholesterol, excess body fat around the abdomen, and high blood sugar. People with metabolic syndrome are more at risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. And research shows that snoring is linked to metabolic syndrome.
Accident risk. The sleepiness and fatigue that are consequences of snoring elevate our risk for accident, according to research. I wonder how many people who think snoring doesn’t matter that much to their health know that a risk for car accidents goes up among snorers with more daytime sleepiness, and for sleepy drivers who drive alone.
Sleep apnea. Snoring is sometimes a sign of sleep apnea. That’s a form of sleep-disordered breathing that involves pauses in breath during sleep, because the sleeper’s airway temporarily becomes very narrow, or closes briefly. There’s a large and growing body of research showing that sleep apnea raises our risks for all the conditions I’ve described above, as well as other serious health problems including stroke and diabetes.
Looking at this list, it’s pretty tough to conclude that snoring isn’t a big deal—and something to be treated, rather than endured.
Written by Caitlin Reynolds