Snoring is loud, annoying for your partner, and has long been thought dangerous for your health. But could heavy snoring actually extend your life? That’s the controversial suggestion emerging from a recent study on sleep apnoea.
For years, the condition, which causes interruptions in breathing during sleep, has been linked to high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks.
While it might be frustrating for your partner, it seems snoring is actually good for you.
It also raises the risk of car and work accidents. But now an Israeli study of 600 people over 65 has found that the risk of early death in people with moderate sleep apnoea was less than half that of people with no history it.The study also showed that the risk of early death for those with a severe form of the condition was the same as a healthy control group, when it was expected to be higher.
One theory is that the constant breaks in oxygen and blood supply to organs, caused by the pauses in the breathing, somehow strengthen the heart and brain; this means that if a heart attack or a stroke occurs, the body is better able to deal with it.
Researchers say that the way the condition is treated in older people may need to be re-examined.Sleep apnoea can result in the airways in the throat collapsing, cutting off the air supply for about ten seconds a time.Many of these breaks can occur during the night, but because the sleeper wakes for only a few seconds at a time, there is rarely any memory of it.The distinctive rumbling sound of snoring is produced when the muscles in the nose, mouth and throat relax during sleep.
There are a variety of factors that exacerbate snoring, including sleeping position, being overweight, having a blocked nose, or physical features such as a large soft palate or long uvula (the bit of tissue that hangs down at the back of your mouth).
Alcohol can also exacerbate snoring, as it travels to all areas of the body and slows the brain’s responses, causing the muscles to relax even more than normal during a night’s sleep.The added relaxation of the musculature causes the oropharynx to collapse more readily causing further snoring.
But Professor Jim Horne, head of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University, says: ‘It is better to get heavy snoring treated rather than assume it will prolong life.’