The health risks of snoring

About 40 percent of men snore, but it may signal health trouble

The health risks of snoring

Source: Best Health Magazine, September 2009

If your guy snores, you know the drill: Wake him up, roll him over and maybe even place a clothespin on his nose (or perhaps you just dream about that part!). But incon­ven­ience aside, compromised breathing during sleep and poor sleep quality due to snoring have been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and mood issues.

About 40 percent of men snore; they’re twice as likely as women to do it. The problem can be made worse by alcohol use, being overweight or having sleep apnea (a condition where breathing stops periodically through the night; it affects up to 10 percent of men.)

‘Anyone who snores should have it checked out, because you’re not breathing properly and that’s not healthy,’ says David Merrell, clinical director of the Merrell Clinics, which have sleep labs in Calgary and Edmonton. Snorers need a sleep clinic assessment to analyze their night breathing and to determine if the cause is sleep apnea. To prevent snoring, doctors will suggest he sleeps on his side (yes, rolling him over is a good idea), using nasal strips or losing weight (less fat in the airways means more space for air to flow). For chronic snorers or for those diagnosed with sleep apnea, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which delivers pressurized air through a mask while you sleep, may be prescribed.

A precursor to heart problems?

A study published in 2008 found that the heart rates of a group of overweight young men suffering from untreated obstructive sleep apnea took longer to return to normal after vigorous exercise, compared to other overweight and regular-weight guys of the same age and with the same sedentary lifestyles who didn’t have sleep apnea. The study shows men who are as young as 18 and have sleep apnea can develop heart problems.

Snoring isn’t sexy

A 2008 study asked about the sex lives of 827 older men who snored to varying degrees. Respondents had similar scores for erectile function and sex drive, but heavy snorers reported the worst sexual satisfaction. ‘We speculate that heavy snoring may not affect physiologic functions leading to erectile dysfunction, but may affect partner interactions, which can lead to decreased sexual satisfaction,’ says Jennifer St. Sauver, a Mayo Clinic epidemiologist who worked on the study.

Another reason to sleep together

A study published in 2008 found that men with sleep apnea whose wives stayed in bed with them rather than sleep in another room used their CPAP machines 74 percent of the nights during the study, while men who slept alone adhered just 43 percent of the time. ‘Stay together‘after all, that’s why you got married,’ says Rosalind Cartwright, who conducted the study at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. And it might just help him stay healthy.

This article was originally titled "Is he a snorer?," in the September 2009 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!’and make sure to check out what’s new in the latest issue of Best Health.