Studies of snoring in the United States peg the prevalance at 33 to 44 percent of men and 15 to 28 percent of women. In Canada, studies show even higher rates: 71 to 86 percent of men and 51 to 57 percent of women.
Do people in Canada actually snore more? Probably not, due to different methods used to sample the populations in the U.S. and Canada, but it can safely be said that at least one-third of the adult population in America snores. Frighteningly, however, a recent prevalence report of snoring in the U.S. now pegs the number at 59 percent of all Americans (1,506 respondents to the survey).
It’s hard to tell if the recent increase is due to more honesty on the part of those surveyed, or worse, to the effects of the obesity epidemic sweeping America. As people gain weight, not only does the fat affect obvious areas like the tummy, thighs, face, arms and other visible features, but inside the mouth, the soft palate, uvula and other soft-tissue features can fatten and become flabby, thereby blocking the nighttime airway for breathing. The result is snoring that may not have plagued the snorer before he or she gained weight.
Obesity, theoretically at least, is something under the control of the person who experiences the weight gain — or maybe not, given the wide variety of diets, exercise programs and weight-loss routines on the market these days. Perhaps obesity is the residue of modern, stressful living in the U.S. and hard to control.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is a form of snoring that is accompanied by interrupted nighttime breathing, has long been linked to hypertension, arrhythmia and cardiac disease. But recent studies have indicated to a strong degree that loud snoring by itself, even in the absence of OSA, can cause the same problems. These studies have shown that the vibrations from loud snoring damage the lining of the carotid arteries, increasing the risk of carotid artery atherosclerosis. In other words, snoring of any but the mildest type poses a health risk and should be examined and treated.
Now only is snoring a problem with one’s sleeping partner, potentially keeping him or her awake and dysfunctional the next day, but it is also potentially dangerous to one’s own health, as indicated above.
If you have a snoring problem, the time to see a sleep professional is now, not later when your doctor reports you’ve developed hypertension or another serious health problem. Sometimes the treatment can be done in a 20-minute, virtually painless office procedure that can lead to years of relief. Thus there’s no reason to delay.