Snoring and sleep apnea are related conditions. They are both very common in adults. Snoring by itself can be bothersome to the bed partner but usually has no direct impact on the snorer's health. However, people who snore loudly every night are at risk for having a condition called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). In this condition, the snorer has repeated obstruction of the breathing passage during sleep that can lead to some very serious health consequences.
Although so-called "Primary Snoring" (snoring without apnea) does not lead to serious medical conditions, it can create a severe strain on a relationship. The consequences of this are difficult to quantify but are important nonetheless. For example, a divorce or break-up rates as high on the stress scale as the death of a close family member or suffering a serious acute illness.
Snoring is an indication that there is narrowing of the air passage during sleep. Even in people who do not snore or have OSA, the upper airway collapses during sleep. Patients with chronic lung disease or neuromuscular disease such as spinal cord injury may experience more problems with a given degree of narrowing than people who are otherwise healthy. To view pictures of varying degrees of airway narrowing, click here.
The public needs to be educated about the potential impact of snoring on their health and quality of life. Good treatments are available and a detailed medical assessment is the key to finding the best treatments.