Is snoring dangerous? Well, yes and no.
Snoring in itself isn’t dangerous (other than when your frustrated and wakeful bed partner punches you!) because this is just the vibration of the soft tissues at the back of the throat as you breathe in and out.
However if the soft tissues actually block the airway at the back of the throat and you stop breathing this can be dangerous for your health. When you stop breathing blood oxygen levels fall and even though the brain detects this and wakes you up, this frequent waking and oxygen deprivation means that you can suffer problems such as:
· Erectile dysfunction and reduced libido
· High blood pressure
More work-related or driving accidents
· Poor memory
· Morning headaches
· Heart problems, especially related to heart rhythm and heart failure.
When you stop breathing during sleep, this is called sleep apnea. You can read more about what causes snoring and sleep apnea here.
So, people who have sleep apnea do snore, but not all people who snore have sleep apnea.
How do I know if I have sleep apnea?
If you have any of the health problems listed above and know that you snore, it might be a good idea to talk to your physician about whether sleep apnea is making them worse.
Click the link above for the symptoms of sleep apnea that you may recognise.
A sleep specialist will be able to run a test called polysomnography in a sleep lab. This is a room set up in a specialist centre that has a comfortable bed but also monitoring equipment that shows what happens as you sleep.
Another test can be done under sedation, where a flexible tube with a small camera is passed into the nose and looks at what happens to the soft tissues at the back of the throat and the airways when you sleep.
You may also be asked in detail about your symptoms and your answers recorded on questionnaires designed for people who snore or have sleep apnea.
Your doctor will discuss the findings of any tests with you.
What are the treatments for sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea pillows are available and some are FDA approved.
Sleep apnea mouthpieces may also help, as well as, or instead of a sleep apnea pillow.
Surgery for sleep apnea is another option. You doctor will be able to advise you.
People whose sleep apnea is treated say that they have more energy and zest for life because they are getting more deep, quality sleep. And their bed partners are happy because they are too!