Why heavy snoring when asleep is harmful to your health

Man snoring, wakes up his wife. [File, Standard]
People who snore loudly while asleep are not only a nuisance to their partners but put their own lives at risk, according medical experts. 

Medics have sounded an alarm over the increasing number of Kenyans, especially couples visiting health facilities looking for ways to help their partners stop snoring when asleep.

In an interview in Kakamega town yesterday, Libutsi Ouya, an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist at Bungoma County Referral Hospital, said loud snoring had serious health-related risks and if not addressed, could result in death due to sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted when asleep.

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Dr Ouya said habitual snorers had the risk of getting hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, Type Two diabetes, congestion on the airwaves (nasal problems), obesity and obstructive sleep apnea.

“A habitual snorer experiences long interruptions of breathing of more than 10 seconds during sleep that is caused by blockage of the airwaves and in turn strains the heart. If the problem is not rectified, it often results in high blood pressure and may cause enlargement of the heart. Such a person can suffer stroke or die from cardiac arrest,” said Ouya.

He said when one snores loudly, there is always low supply of oxygen in the blood, which leads to the constriction of the blood vessels in the lungs, adding that after sometime, the patient will start suffering from pulmonary hypertension, chronic headaches, daytime sleepiness and fatigue.

“A habitual snorer wakes up in the middle of the sleep frequently but he may not realise. Being overweight makes the throat tissue to be bulky, making someone snore loudly when asleep. Children with large tonsils and adenoids (a patch of tissue that is high up in the throat, just behind the nose) snore loudly,” said Ouya.

He said heavy snoring in children could affect their performance in class due to a decline in memory and thinking skills. “Old age also makes someone to snore when in deep sleep,” he said.

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He said excessive intake of alcohol, smoking and use of sleeping pills caused the throat and tongue muscles to relax too much as a result of deep sleep, leading to snoring. If the habit continues for a long time, he said, it could be dangerous to someone’s health.

Ouya said surgical procedures such as Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), Thermal Ablation Palatoplasty (TAP), tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy could help solve the problem after the abnormality is corrected.

Eileen Mulaa, an exercise and sports science expert from the department of Exercise Science and Recreation Sports at Kenyatta University, said habitual snorers should undergo a vigorous 30-minute exercise two to three times a week for 30 minutes. 

“Physical exercise reduces snoring. Toning exercises are recommended. When you tone various muscles of the body like the arms, legs and abs, it helps to tone the muscles of the throat, leading to less snoring,” said Ms Mulaa.

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ENTLibutsi OuyaSnoringHealth problemsUPPPThermal Ablation Palatoplasty