“Laugh and the world laughs with you. Snore and you sleep alone…”

Those are the often-quoted words of Anthony Burgess, the novelist and composer, but despite clever sayings like that, and nearly endless jokes about snoring spouses, snoring is literally no laughing matter.

snoring keeps partners awake

Snoring, as we know, is that very annoying sound made by vibrations in the back of the throat or nose by someone who is probably deeply asleep. It is generally more common in men, in people who are overweight, or in those over the age of 50. But anyone can snore, including skinny young women and even babies and children.

Snoring may come and go, such as when the nose is stuffed up because of a cold or a seasonal allergy, and in this particular case it may be a little irritating to someone trying to sleep in the same room as well as to the snorer who may not be sleeping well. It all passes though as soon as they recover from their temporary condition, and generally, there is no harm done.

Chronic snoring, however, and by that I mean the kind that occurs every night and sometimes throughout the night, is often a sign of something much more sinister than the common cold. When the tissues at the back of the throat become so relaxed and loose during sleep that they vibrate loudly and incessantly, they are also blocking the free passage of air in and out of the lungs. Sometimes the tissues collapse completely or the tongue falls back against them and the breathing stops altogether.

It can stay that way for a minute, even more, and when this happens, the blood oxygen level falls and the brain begins to panic – it is suffocating!

The brain has to make a choice between breathing and sleeping and luckily, sleeping usually wins. The brain wakes up, the person may gasp, gurgle or choke, but they are quickly back asleep again and the snoring cycle begins anew. This can happen dozens, even hundreds of times during the night and the sleeper often has no recollection of any of it in the morning. All he or she knows is they are tired even after a full night of “sleep.” This is obstructive sleep apnea or OSA.

It makes sense therefore that those with OSA may be fatigued during the day. That repeated life and death struggle to breathe through the night is not restful and the resulting daytime sleepiness can be dangerous.

In fact, a study presented to the Association of Professional Sleep Societies in June of 2015 revealed that people with sleep apnea are twice as likely to be involved in a workplace accident and 2.5 times more likely to be the driver in an automobile crash than those who do not have the sleep related breathing disorder.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, OSA affects 1 in every 15 people, representing a significant and growing public health concern. Those with sleep apnea are more susceptible to depression, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure and have been shown to be more likely to die from cancer than those without sleep apnea.

Sometimes in order to determine if someone has temporary snoring from another condition or has potentially perilous obstructive sleep apnea, an overnight sleep study may be done. However if you choke and gasp for breath in the night then your partner is sure to know.

Treatment for OSA can vary but the most common treatments used today are the CPAP machine and the mandibular advancement device.

A CPAP machine, which stands for continuous positive airway pressure, is a computerized blower that supplies air pressure via a tube and face mask to hold the relaxed throat tissues open while the patient sleeps. Unfortunately for numerous reasons including discomfort the rejection levels are high.

A mandibular advancement device, or MAD, is a custom fitted oral device designed to hold the jaw forward at night. By locking the top and bottom teeth together, the lower jaw, and therefore the tongue, cannot slide back and block the throat when the wearer falls asleep.

Habitual snoring signals airway obstruction and has the potential for very serious long term physical and mental health problems such as diabetes, cancer, and major cardiovascular problems as well as cognitive disabilities such as early onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Basically, snoring will ruin your health unless you do something about it.

John Redfern.