Snoring Wake Up

Snorers face greater risks to their overall health than a few bruises from an annoyed bed partner.

Researchers from the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit have found evidence that snoring could increase a person’s risk of problems with the carotid artery, the main vessel that supplies oxygenated blood to your brain.

Lead study author Dr. Robert Deeb said his team’s research adds to existing evidence that isolated snoring (snoring that has nothing to do with sleep apnea or other sleep-related conditions) may not be as benign as once thought. 

“Snoring is more than a bedtime annoyance and it shouldn't be ignored,” he said in a press release. “Patients need to seek treatment in the same way they would if they had sleep apnea, high blood pressure, or other risk factors for cardiovascular disease." 

The risks, researchers say, are greater than people who are overweight, smoke, or have high cholesterol.  This occurs because the vibrations that give snoring its particular grating noise also damage the arteries around the neck.

“So instead of kicking your snoring bed partner out of the room or spending sleepless nights elbowing him or her, seek out medical treatment for the snorer,” Dr. Deeb said.

The Science Behind the Statement

For the study, researchers reviewed data for 913 patients ages 18-50 who had been evaluated at Henry Ford’s sleep center. 

In all, 54 patients completed a survey regarding their snoring habits and underwent a carotid artery duplex ultrasound—an imaging technique of the neck—to measure the thickness of the walls of their arteries. Doctors use this test to measure the progression of atherosclerotic disease, or hardening of the arteries. This is the first sign of carotid artery disease.

When other risk factors were removed, researchers found that snorers were more likely to have significantly greater intima-media thickness of the carotid arteries compared with people who didn’t sore.

The results of the study were presented at the 2013 Combined Sections Meeting of the Triological Society in Scottsdale, Ariz., and has been submitted to The Laryngoscope journal for publication. They plan on conducting a long-term study into the issue.

“Snoring is generally regarded as a cosmetic issue by health insurance, requiring significant out-of-pocket expenses by patients,” Dr. Deeb said. “We're hoping to change that thinking so patients can get the early treatment they need, before more serious health issues arise.”

If your bedroom partner is spending too much time keeping you awake, it’s in everyone’s best interest to see a doctor before the annoying habit leads to something serious.