Snoring is sometimes seen as a bit of a joke problem, something that is irritating to our sleeping partners that we aren’t even aware of.
But scientists from Umea University in Sweden have just concluded that snoring can do real physical damage too.
For their study (published in the journal, Respiratory Research) they recruited 22 snorers and sleep apnea patients whose conditions were so damaging that they needed surgery.
They also recruited 10 people who breathed normally during sleep for comparison.
The researchers noticed muscular damage in the upper respiratory tracts of heavy snorers, probably caused by the constant vibrations these soft tissues had to endure every night.
The snoring damage was so incessant that their bodies couldn’t repair it, so once the damage was done, it was there to stay.
Videoradiography also revealed that the snorers suffered from swallowing dysfunction, most likely also caused by this muscle damage.
Another problem they saw was that heavy snorers and people with sleep apnea had fewer nerves and less muscle tissue in their soft palates than the healthy breathers did. This probably made their condition worse because less muscle support allowed their upper airways to collapse, which is the reason why sleep apnea patient’s breathing stops during the night, starving them of oxygen and depriving them of proper sleep. A dangerous combination that can increase the chances of cardiovascular problems significantly.
When they drilled down to the nitty-gritty details, they found that much of this muscle dysfunction was related to proteins.
Two proteins, called desmin and dystrophin were known to be essential for proper muscle function, so the scientists looked for differences between how these two proteins behaved in the upper airways of the heavy snorers and the healthy breathers. Here’s what they found:
1. While only seven percent of muscle fibers of healthy breathers lacked desmin, 12 percent of muscle fibers of heavy snorers were short on it.
2. Desmin was disorganized in 13 percent of the snorer’s muscle fibers but was fine in the healthy breathers.
3. Overall, 18 percent of the muscle fibers of the heavy snorers displayed desmin abnormalities, while only seven percent of those of the normal breathers did.
4. 10 percent of the muscle fibers of those with swallowing dysfunction displayed desmin abnormalities, compared with six percent for the good swallowers.
5. Part of the dystrophin protein tended to be absent in the desmin-abnormal muscle fibers of the heavy snorers.
Researchers also found that the chief neurotransmitter responsible for healing was present in these muscle tissues. That’s how they knew that patient’s bodies were trying to repair these muscles, but the constant heavy snoring was interrupting the healing process.
This shows why you need to take your snoring problem seriously. It’s a slippery slope from snoring to upper airway muscle injuries, to nerve and muscle loss, and to sleep apnea, which can seriously hurt your heart.