When is snoring innocent and when is it a sign of sleep apnea? See what the Harvard experts answer
Snoring is a problem that concerns many people, some of whom are worried about suffering from dementia. The truth is that more than 90 million people in the United States have trouble with snoring, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association, but that does not mean that everyone suffers from sleep apnea.
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As explained by Dr. Hope Ricciotti and Dr. Hye-Chun Hur from Harvard University, snoring is usually caused by narrowing of the upper airway. The tissues at the back of the neck sometimes relax during sleep and fall off, partially blocking the air passage. Inhaled air “impacts” the tissues, creating this particular noise as it moves inside the respiratory system.
Simple snoring is different from sleep apnea because people with apnea actually have short periods of shortness of breath during the night. Episodes of apnea can last from a few seconds to more than a minute. People with sleep apnea often feel tired or exhausted during the day, even after a good night’s sleep, because these intermittent breathing interruptions interfere with normal sleep patterns. Sleep apnea has also been linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and other health problems.
If you snore, it may be due to lifestyle factors and personal choices. For example, some medications, alcohol, and constipation can make snoring worse. You may also be at a higher risk of snoring – or suffering from sleep apnea – if you are overweight or obese if you sleep on your back or smoke, explain Dr Ricciotti and Hur explained
In addition, if it is common for you to feel tired even after a good night‘s sleep or your partner notices that you are not only snoring but also having episodes of cessation of breathing, consult your doctor to check for sleep apnea. The condition is considered curable through lifestyle changes or through machines that facilitate breathing during the night.