Healthy Sleep

The Health Risks of Snoring: We asked a Specialist Nurse

Snoring is annoying; we all know that. But did you know that there are health risks associated with snoring?

We spoke with Jenny, a registered nurse who currently oversees the SleepTight program for snoring at Specialist Clinics of Australia, to find out how snoring can affect your overall health.  

Health Risks of Snoring

The majority of people snore at some time in their life. Some start when they get older, others only do it on special occasions, such as after having a few drinks. If you’re a regular, long-term snorer though, it can wreak havoc on your health.

Here are the five biggest health risks of long-term snoring.

Improper Sleep

When you snore, your breathing is interrupted, and you don't go into a deep, restorative sleep. Not to mention, if you have sleep apnoea, you probably wake up many times in the night without realising it. Your partner may say it sounds like you're choking.

When you’re not getting a good night’s sleep, you’re putting yourself at risk for fatigue, moodiness, poor focus and all sorts of other problems.

Lack of oxygen

During sleep is when your body repairs and restores itself, and to do so effectively, it needs oxygen. When snoring impairs your breathing, it deprives the brain and body of vital oxygen. 

I’ll never forget a patient I had when I worked in the ICU, who needed to have a liver transplant because his liver wasn’t getting enough oxygen. The reason for that?  It was snoring, which lead to sleep apnoea and oxygen deprivation.

Heart Strain 

Ongoing lack of oxygen and inadequate sleep also puts you at greater risk of heart disease if left too long.

This is worse for snorers who also have sleep apnoea. When you stop breathing, even for just a moment, oxygen levels in your blood drop and your heart rate and blood pressure can go up dramatically. If this happens too often, it can lead to hypertension and eventually, heart disease or stroke.

Weight Gain

Snoring disrupts your sleep cycle and makes you feel fatigued during the day. When you feel fatigued, you try to get energy from sugar and fast foods. This is because a tired body cannot produce as much leptin (the hormone that decreases your appetite) as a well-rested body. Not to mention, when you’re both tired and hungry, you "look for a quick fix".

What can you do about snoring?

There are a few different devices that help you reduce snoring, but laser treatment works well for the right candidates. Good sleep husbandry can also make a big difference.

The first step is to learn to sleep on your side. When you sleep on your back, the soft palate at the back of your throat hangs down and flaps like a flag in a gale, which is what makes that awful snoring sound. Sleeping on your side will minimise this.

Excess fat around your neck area can also put pressure on your tongue, forcing it back against the soft palate, thus increasing snoring like the beating of a drum. If you’re overweight, a little bit of weight loss can help (and it’ll have plenty of other benefits for you too).

Finally, try to limit your alcohol intake, so no more than two standard drinks in a night, and at least two hours before bed. Alcohol is an involuntary muscle relaxant which relaxes your throat muscles, leaving you to snore even worse than usual.

About the Author.

Jenny is a Registered Nurse with 29 years’ experience in Cardiology and Intensive Care. She is passionate about the health impacts of sleep and currently oversees the SleepTight program for snoring at Specialist Clinics of Australia.