Snoring is one of the most prevalent conditions, with serious health effects, that are easily ignored. In the US alone, half of the population snores occasionally while one in three adults, or approximately 80 million, snore regularly.
A number of factors cause snoring. One of the most important is heredity. Snoring can be passed on from parents to an offspring. Research suggests that regular and occasional snorers are thrice as more likely to suffer from serious health conditions than non-snorers.
One of the most striking effects of snoring is that of brain health. The brain consumes about 20% of the oxygen supply of the body both while awake and when asleep. The brain does not cease to function and, thus, requires oxygen all the time.
Snoring can sometimes be a symptom of a more serious condition—like sleep apnea. During sleep, a snorer can have reduced amounts of oxygen intake thus the supply in the brain will be diminished, as well.
In addition, a person who suffers from sleep apnea can have several instances of breathing interruptions during the night and might wake up to gasp for air. This condition is dangerous and fatal. One of the potentially harmful effects of it is that it can alter the physical appearance of the region of the brain responsible for memory.
After years of snoring, the brain of the snorer changes physically. The change happens in the region responsible for storing memory. There are two possible factors for this.
First, snoring reduces the amount of oxygen one is getting out of a breath. With a reduced amount of oxygen, some cells, including the brain cells, die or malfunction. To compensate for oxygen deficit, the brain restructures so that it sustains the least damage. The area for storing memory is among those that get deprioritized. With this change, a person who regularly snores will have diminished memory functions.
Second, snoring affects the quality of sleep a person gets. During periods of interruption in breathing, a snorer will sometimes wake up a number of times during the night to gasp or take in the air. This breaks down or interferes with the normal sleeping cycle. In addition, studies reveal that snorers have reduced chances of entering into or sustaining a complete REM sleep. Thus, they wake up tired and their minds not fully restored.
This can affect the memory in many ways. Short-term memory is first to get affected. Even after having a poor sleep for just a night, a person can already exhibit symptoms of short-term memory loss. Simple things that the person could not normally forget or disregard sometimes are missed.
Although initially, it will not affect long-term memory, over a period, a person will exhibit difficulty in recalling things that are committed to his long-term memory.
Sleep is a vital process for memory consolidation. One cannot form or transfer a memory from short- to long-term memory without sleeping. In addition, sleep also helps in the recall. During daytime, the brain produces toxins and waste products that are swept or removed during sleep. If not properly or completely removed, these toxins can interfere with the normal operations of the brain—such as remembering—and makes things a bit more difficult than usual.
Snoring may indicate the presence of apnea, a sleep disorder. Most often, snorers have a poor sleep experience leaving them tired the next day. That is because breathing interruptions can rouse a person from sleep many times during the night—although most sufferers would report not remembering that they wake up in the night.
Snoring does not directly cause depression— the lack of complete and restorative sleep does. Often, a person suffering from apnea is more likely to have and will continue to experience poor sleep. The length of time a person experiences poor sleep correlates positively with the chances of having depression.
A recent study by US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention established the connection between snoring and depression. The more a person feels sleepy in the morning, the greater the chance a person has for having depression and anxiety symptoms.
Attention span and concentration problems
Its effect on attention span and concentration cannot solely be attributed to snoring. Mild sleep deprivation can lead to problems in attention span and concentration.
Although these effects are transitory in nature and are often fixed by catching up on sleep, the case for snorers is different. Unless the cause of snoring is addressed, that is, unless the condition in the throat is fixed so that normal breathing is restored during sleep, the condition will more likely to worsen over time.
Alzheimer’s, a form of dementia, is a neurodegenerative disease, which involves the gradual loss of memory and other cognitive abilities enough to interfere with day-to-day life.
Although it is premature to conclude causation, studies suggest that there is a link between snoring and contracting the disease. The link is even stronger in those who carry APOE-e4, a form of a gene known to be a risk factor for the disease.
From these findings, we can glean on that snoring has a contributory effect to the development of Alzheimer’s disease to some extent.
One of Alzheimer’s disease’s early symptoms is disrupted sleep. Remarkably, Alzheimer’s disease can also be started by disruptions in the sleep. This tells us something about the importance of sleep in preventing the disease and keeping our mental health in check which can easily be threatened by an onset of snoring.
Remedies for Snoring
To help prevent or address conditions caused by snoring, like those listed above, it is important to address the root of the problem. What causes snoring? How can it be fixed?
The primary cause of snoring is a blockage in the airways. This can be caused either by a growth (which rarely happens) or by fatty tissues in the throat area. The best solution, under the advice of an expert, is surgery where the airway is cleared to restore normal breathing patterns during sleep. There are simpler and safer solutions, however. Here are some of those:
#1 Change sleep positions
If the cause of snoring is fatty tissues on the throat, the best way is to relieve pressure as much as possible. Lying on your back while sleeping creates pressure such that the soft palate and the base of your tongue are pressed to your throat’s back wall. The movement of air through these narrow passages causes these parts to vibrate which results in the sound of snoring. This also limits the amount of air that passes through.
Sleeping on one side fixes this problem. If you find sleeping on your sides uncomfortable or you cannot sustain it while asleep, sleeping with the head up and extended on a reclined bed would also help.
#2 Lose weight
Although thin people snore, too, weight gain can aggravate the condition. For others who did not snore before, weight gain can turn them into snorers. This is because fat tissues can build up at the back of the throat. This can narrow down the air passage and causes snoring.
Unlike subcutaneous fat, however, the fat tissues at the back of the throat are among those that are first mobilized during weight loss. After losing some initial pounds, you will readily feel the improvement in snoring. This means that you do not have to wait that long to see the difference. Over time, as the fat at the back of the throat is mobilized, the air passage will widen thus improving or removing the condition.
#3 Clear your nasal passages
Even a mild cold and nasal inflammation can narrow down the nasal passages. Avoid situations or instances that would result in a cold. If you contract one, clear away the nasal passages using simple home remedies. Nasal pressure caused inflammation does not only worsen an existing snoring problem, it also further diminishes the amount of air you breathe in thus diminishing the oxygen you draw per breath.
#4 Fix your sleep patterns
Prioritize sleep by getting to bed and waking up on a fixed schedule. Developing a good sleep hygiene may not affect as much but it is a good start in the process of addressing your problem with snoring.
Going to bed too tired means that the muscles at the back of your throat are also tired of making them a bit floppy. This can aggravate snoring. That is why tired people are more likely to snore (and louder) than those who are not.
By developing a good sleep hygiene, you also improve your chances of getting the most out of your sleep even if your snoring interferes with it.
Although snoring may seem trivial, the effects it has on your body, especially your mental health, will begin to take its toll long before the symptoms show up. If you snore or know someone who does, it might save him or her from more serious mental health problems in the future by addressing the root of the problem early on.
Included in this article are simple ways to deal with the problem without medical intervention. However, if those steps do not prove useful, it is always best to seek medical help or consider an online therapy. Surgery, for instance, is a practical and permanent solution to snoring. People’s lives have greatly benefited from it.
After addressing the cause of snoring, symptoms brought about by sleep deprivation or lack of restorative sleep begins to improve, as well.