Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Snoring and Sleep Apnea have had a very close connection to each other for as long as I can remember.  About 17 years ago is when I first started habitually watching people snore.  There is a larger connection to snoring and sleep apnea than most research is able to tell you.  Why?  The sneaky sleeper adding to the Sleep Apnea diagnosis: hypopneas.


An apnea is defined as a cessation of breathing (“a” – without, and “pnea” – breath) for at least 10 seconds during sleep.  Much of the time we will see oxygen levels fluctuate greater than three to four percent during these pauses.  Those changes in oxygen level cause the central nervous system to interrupt sleep with an arousal, or micro arousal.  The categories of Apneas (with limited explanation) are Obstructive, Central and Mixed.


Hypopneas (“hypo” – low, below normal or shallow, “pnea” – breath) is a shallow breath that occurs in a succession.  Often these events are associated with snoring that may or may not crescendo/decrescendo in volume.  Most of these shallow breaths are also accompanied with changes in the oxygen level which, as with apneas, will cause the central nervous system to arouse us from sleep.  To be diagnosed with Sleep Apnea it is important to have a sleep study performed that shows an AHI (Apnea-Hypopnea Index) greater than 5 per hour.  Overall that means 5 Apneas per hour, versus 5 Hypopneas per hour, will still give you a diagnosis of Sleep Apnea.  Now why is that important in relation to snoring?


According to a recent article by MPRNews, author Allison Aubrey highlighted some important concepts.  Among them are:

An estimated 40 percent of adults in the U.S. snore. And, men: You tend to out-snore women. (Yes, this may explain why you get kicked or shoved at night!)


We can control some of the underlying triggers. For instance, drinking alcohol is linked to snoring. Alcohol tends to make the tissues within our mouths swell a bit and alcohol can also change the quality of sleep.

which is correct.  In fact, alcohol suppresses the respiratory system as well as the REM cycle.  She also highlights:

Being overweight can also increase the likelihood of snoring. So, when people lose weight, this can reduce the amount they snore.

Other factors that contribute to snoring may be outside our control. There are physical obstructions, such as a large uvula or a deviated septum. In addition, allergies and upper respiratory infections can cause the tissues in the roof of the mouth to become floppy, swollen, or stretched out, Voigt says.

So, when is snoring just annoying, and when is it a sign of a potentially serious problem? A light, rhythmic snore — that stays pretty steady — is common and tends to be harmless.

Herein lies much of the connection to common conclusions on snoring that may be of problematic note.  The conclusion that any snoring may be harmless is, in itself, quite harmful.  As I described above, the experience of Hypopneas is consistently associated with changes in oxygen levels similar to apneas.  Without data that supports what is happening to the oxygen levels during the snore, we must conclude that all snoring is harmful.  Not just the type that finds us ejected from the bedroom.  If you suspect your snoring may be a problem (cause it ALL is), screen yourself here and we will contact you to begin your problem-solving process!