When is snoring dangerous?
While occasional snoring is harmless for most people, repeated pauses in breathing can be a sign of a serious medical condition. If you have concerns about your snoring, seek medical advice. Timely detection and treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can significantly improve not only your sleep quality, but also your overall health and performance.
Many people snore – some quietly and barely noticeable, others so loudly that it wakes up the entire house. Snoring is often the butt of jokes, but when should you take it seriously? As an oral surgeon, I would like to shed more light on this topic and clarify when snoring can become dangerous.
Snoring can have many causes
Snoring occurs when air flows through the mouth, and the throat is obstructed during sleep. This causes the surrounding tissue to vibrate and produces the typical snoring sound. Some factors promote snoring: being overweight, drinking alcohol before going to bed, lying on your back while sleeping – or organic causes such as narrowed airways.
When does it become critical?
Occasional snoring is usually harmless. But if pauses in breathing accompany snoring, it may be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In OSA, the soft tissue in the throat repeatedly collapses and blocks the airway. These pauses in breathing can last from a few seconds to several minutes.
Why is sleep apnea so dangerous?
Sleep apnea damages the body in several ways:
- OSA causes oxygen deficiency: During pauses in breathing, the body does not receive enough oxygen, which can lead to cardiovascular disease and nocturnal high blood pressure.
- The pauses in breathing disrupt sleep, lead to frequent awakenings, interrupt the physiological sleep cycle and prevent you from entering the deeper, more restful phases of sleep. The consequences are often daytime tiredness, concentration problems and an increased risk of accidents.
- Untreated (or undetected) sleep apnea increases patients’ long-term health risks because it can promote the development of metabolic diseases such as diabetes.
If in doubt, see a doctor
If you or your partner notice pauses in breathing during sleep, it is essential to seek medical advice. In our sleep laboratory, we can determine the exact cause and severity of the illness. Depending on the diagnosis, different treatments can be considered: lifestyle changes, dental splints, and even surgical elimination of snoring.