Millions of Aussies warned about silent bedtime killer: 'A huge problem'

Snoring can be an embarrassing problem to confront, but Aussies are being urged to seek medical help to check it’s not making them sick.

A woman sitting on her bed looking at her phone (background). A sound wave depicting snoring (inset).
Snoring can reach 100 decibels and the force can impact arteries. Source: Getty

Snoring is a problem most of us would rather forget. It’s embarrassing for the sleeper, and infuriating when it keeps you up through the night.

But a new study of over 12,200 people has found snoring could be silently killing millions of Australians through the night. For the first time, Flinders University researchers have linked snoring to two serious diseases – elevated blood pressure and uncontrolled hypertension.

The university’s director of sleep health Professor Danny Eckert estimates at least 7 million Australian adults snore and need to seek medical advice.

The Flinders University team has identified three additional problems caused by snoring. “If you’re snoring you’re probably getting more disruptive sleep and we know how restorative sleep is for all the processes in the body including heart health,” Eckert told Yahoo News.

Secondly, the act of snoring itself is a sign you’re working harder to breathe and this forces extra stress on the heart. That’s because when we snore, the airway structures around the throat and back of your nose relax causing the airway to become narrower.

The third problem is that the vibrations from snoring cause plaque to form in nearby arteries, clogging up the cardiovascular system, and raising blood pressure. “Some people snore very loudly – over 100 decibels on occasion. That’s a lot of force – a lot of sound and energy getting transmitted to nearby structures,” Eckert said.

A crowd of people in Sydney in the rain.
Conservatively 7 million Australians are snorers and should get checked by a doctor. Source: Getty
  • Hypertension is another term for sustained high blood pressure. And it can lead to stroke, heart failure and kidney disease.

Most participants in the study were monitored for six months using sensors placed under the bed. The technology was unable to identify whether certain types of snoring were linked to heart disease, but the researchers suspect louder snoring is more problematic.

Around 15 per cent of participants snored for more than 20 per cent of the night. While the majority of them were overweight men, the study’s lead author Dr Bastien Lechat has warned they’re not the only ones at risk.

Women and children also regularly suffer from sleep apnea, and often they’re not seeking treatment because of the stigma associated with the ailment.

“It’s not something to be ashamed about, you might just naturally have a more crowded upper airway that makes you more likely to snore,” he said.

The study found snoring and sleep apnea often overlap, indicating a shared common cause. Of those who snored around 60 per cent had sleep apnea.

“That’s a huge problem because 80 per cent of them go undiagnosed,” Lechat said. “The key message is if you snore and you wake up in the morning and you’re a bit tired, or you feel a bit drowsy in the afternoon, then maybe get a check with your GP and try and get a sleep study to see if there is not something more severe going on.”

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