Even if you don’t snore, you probably have a friend or a family member who does.
Snoring robs people of energy, health and can even be deadly. This happens because snoring disrupts regular sleep patterns. Because of this, people who suffer from snoring often feel exhausted and want to sleep in the middle of a day, even when driving.
When a person snores, he or she stops breathing for several seconds. This means the brain gets less oxygen than it’s supposed to get. With snoring, this happens multiple times in an hour. Breathing may stop 5, 10, 50 or even 100 times per hour of sleep and may not start again for a period that can last up to a minute or even longer.
When this happens, the heart also doesn’t function properly because the flow of oxygen is not continuous, which is why snoring also puts people at risk for high blood pressure and strokes, not to mention the higher probability of getting into car accidents and work-related injuries because of the lack of energy during the daytime.
On May 12, 2015, Neurology, the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology, published a study called “Sleep-disordered breathing advances cognitive decline in the elderly.”
The study discovered that people who suffered from snoring were likely to get memory issues and other symptoms of the condition called mild cognitive impairment.
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) leads to a small but measurable decline of cognitive abilities, including thinking skills and memory loss. A person who has MCI also has elevated levels of risk when it comes to getting Alzheimer’s disease.
While MCI does have the word “mild” in its title, the condition is serious enough for the person who has it and others to notice it. However, the changes that occur because of the developing MCI typically do not interfere with the tasks a person must complete during his or her daily routine. People with MCI also do not lose the ability to function independently.
Ricardo Osorio, MD is a research assistant professor of psychiatry at New York University Center for Brain Health. He and his colleagues conducted the study of 2,000 people who were a part of Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. Some of the participants had no cognition issues while others did have MCI and some had Alzheimer’s.
The researchers asked patients about sleep patterns, sleep apnea, and snoring. The scientists followed up with study participants every six months for two to three years and studied changes in cognitive abilities.
The study found participants with snoring issues were likely to experience symptoms of MCI that included memory loss and slower cognition skills on average 12 years earlier compared to study participants who didn’t snore.
The correlation between snoring and the development of MCI stayed strong even after the doctors accounted for such factors as Alzheimer’s predisposition because of genetics, education, gender, and heart disease risk factors, all of which are known for their connection with cognitive decline.
Osorio also documented a connection between snoring and Alzheimer’s even though it was not as strong as the connection between snoring and MCI.
The relationship between snoring and Alzheimer’s is very hard for scientists to study because sleep disorders are a condition that also manifests itself during the development of degenerative brain disease. Accurate reporting of the sleeping patterns of patients with degenerative brain disease is difficult.
In the study, Osorio was careful not to state all snoring lead to memory loss or Alzheimer's. However, he noticed the influence of disrupted breathing on the brain could have increased effects on aging patients.
While the researchers can’t say for sure how exactly sleeping disorders increase the risks of MCI or Alzheimer’s, some doctors do believe the cumulative effects of interrupted breathing during sleep could deprive the brain of critical amounts of oxygen.
While doctors can’t explain how exactly snoring influences memory loss, studies demonstrate that there is a connection between snoring and memory degeneration. There is also plenty of proof that moderate snoring can be reduced and sleep improved with the help of snoring mouth guards like SnoreRx.