Snoring is the sound produced in some individuals while sleeping. It can sound like an engine or motor running, or clouds rumbling depending on who you ask. It’s often the spouse or an observer that complains about another person’s snoring. The snorer is most often unaware.
Why does snoring happen?
Sound is produced when air faces an obstruction while passing through the nasal/pharyngeal part of the airway. Obstruction in other parts of the airway is called stridor and/or wheezing based on its location and character. When air has to pass via a narrowed airway its pattern gets disturbed, turbulence and vibrations are produced in surrounding soft tissue, which acts like hollow musical instrument. Snoring is only a part of a larger disease called sleep apnea.
Effects of snoring and apnea on our body
From this we can understand three things happening in our body while we snore. These are:
1. Reduced or obstructed airflow
It reduces the oxygen in blood and increases the carbon di oxide in blood. Reduced oxygen in blood leads to productions of dangerous free radicals at cellular level. These particles are extremely harmful for the cells and have been implicated in all disease pathology such as Cancer, Diabetes, Hypertension, Cardiovascular disease, Dementia etc. Higher blood level of carbon di oxide leads to acidosis at cellular level, which is harmful for normal metabolism of cell.
2. Increased work of breathing
While snoring our body tries to breathe in and out against a resistance. This increases the pressure changes required in our lungs and thoracic cavity. Muscles of breathing – diaphragm, intercostal muscles have to to work harder to achieve these pressures. This increased work of breathing coupled with reduced oxygen supply to the brain and muscles, and carbon dioxide build up leads to the person waking up tired as compared to refreshed. This lethargy is carried forward to the next day, causing day time sleepiness, irritability and forgetfulness.
3. Effect on metabolism
It’s our bodies job to ensure adequate oxygen to brain. When oxygen supply is reduced, its supply for non essential processes such as fat metabolism is reduced, this can been seen in the form of weight gain. Increased fat leads to peripheral insulin resistance causing high blood sugar seen in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Increased body weight also causes an increase in peripheral resistance to blood flow leading to high blood pressures. Together high blood sugar and blood pressure are the reason for majority of heart attacks and stroke. In women, weight gain is associated with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) which causes infertility.
Snoring as a symptom shouldn’t be ignored. It could indicate to a much severe problem of sleep apnea. Timely intervention can reduce lifestyle diseases like Diabetes & Hypertension and life threatening diseases like heart attacks, stroke and cancer.