The sound of snoring is irritating and annoying and can lead to sleep deprivation for the bed partner. But the noise of snoring can also cause a number of health problems.
That's the message at the start of National Stop Snoring Week. Ok, this may only, as of yet, be a recognised week in the UK, but those living with an Irish snorer know that the border doesn't stop the pain.
When you consider that noise starts to have an effect on sleep at around 40dB and the noise of snoring can range from about 50dB to 100+dB, it's no wonder snoring causes such annoyance.
Research has consistently found that when exposed to noise at these levels, it can have a negative effect on all areas of wellbeing.
Sleep disturbance, hearing impairment, daytime functioning, mental health problems, cognitive issues and negative social behaviour can be symptoms of being subjected to loud noise over an extended period of time.
Sleep deprivation can also have a negative impact on body systems such as hormonal release, glucose regulation and cardiovascular function.
Some bed partners who sleep with a snorer try to ignore the noise - by some miracle. Although they may manage to sleep through the night, the quality of sleep is much reduced and they will not feel as refreshed in the morning as they should.
Noise tends to reduce deep refreshing sleep to more shallow sleep, and will reduce dreaming sleep. More worryingly partners of snorers are at risk of hearing loss due to continuous exposure to noise.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) document several categories of adverse health and social effects from noise.
But it isn't just the partner of a snorer who is adversely affected.
Snoring can be an indication of a much more serious medical condition - Sleep Apnoea.
Those with obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) regularly stop breathing for periods during sleep. OSA only happens during sleep, as it is a lack of muscle tone in your upper airway that causes the airway to collapse. During the day we have sufficient muscle tone to keep the airway open allowing for normal breathing. When you experience an episode of apnoea during sleep your brain will automatically wake you up, usually with a very loud snore or snort, in order to breathe again. People with OSA will experience these wakening episodes many times during the night and consequently feel very sleepy during the day: they have an airway that is more likely to collapse than normal.
How Do I Know I Have Sleep Apnoea?
People with sleep apnoea may complain of excessive daytime sleepiness often with irritability or restlessness. But it is normally the bed partner, family or friends who notice the symptoms first. Sufferers may experience some of the following:
- Extremely loud heavy snoring, often interrupted by pauses and gasps
- Excessive daytime sleepiness, e.g., falling asleep at work, whilst driving, during conversation or when watching TV. (This should not be confused with excessive tiredness with which we all suffer from time to time)
- Irritability, short temper
- Morning headaches
- Changes in mood or behaviour
- Anxiety or depression
- Decreased interest in sex
Remember, not everyone who has these symptoms will necessarily have sleep apnoea. We possibly all suffer from these symptoms from time to time but people with sleep apnoea demonstrate some or all of these symptoms all the time.
For more information on sleep apnoea speak to your GP.