Sleep Care

Predictors of Snoring and OSA

Snoring is a fairly common problem–between 30-50% of people in a given demographic may be snorers. Snoring is associated with a variety of health risks, such as cardiovascular problems and heart failure. Although snoring does not directly indicate the presence of sleep apnea, (a condition where a person stops breathing at night), the relationship between the two is strong. It can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint non-physical factors that could predict whether or not a person snores or has apnea. For example, while it may seem obvious that an overweight person is more likely to snore, what about if the person maintains a healthy weight but smokes? Does snoring differ from one race to another? A new study investigating persistent snoring in 249 mother-child pairs might

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offer some clues.

In analyzing their data, researchers found some interesting connections to snoring in children. Race appeared to be a significant predictor as African-American children were more likely to snore. Researchers theorized that craniofacial features genetically unique to the African-American race might explain the significance of this connection. Socioeconomic status was another factor connected to snoring in children, and is explained due to limited access to quality health-care. Not surprisingly, children that were exposed to secondhand smoke were more likely to snore. The last factor that researchers found showed that children who were breast-fed for more than twelve months were less likely to snore than children who were not. Researchers suggest this connection is likely a result from better development of the upper airway that occurs when children are breast-fed.

Given the significant risks that snoring poses to a person’s health, it is helpful to be familiar with a few predictors or risk factors for snoring. Here are some additional demographics linked to snoring and apnea in adults.

  • Physical considerations. This can include having a narrow airway or having lots of fat tissue surrounding the airway. Also, the presence of a long uvula (tear-shaped tissue at the back of the throat) can cause problems. Having a receding chin—which causes the tongue to lay back and block off the airway more easily—or a blocked nose (sometimes called a deviated nasal septum) are also physical abnormalities to look for. Finally, larger neck circumferences are strongly associated with snoring.
  • Racial or ethnic considerations. Because some races or ethnicities typically have some known facial features associated with snoring, they may be predisposed for it. African-Americans may have a large tongue base that closes off the airway easily when the head is tilted back. Those of Asian descent may have very small and narrow facial features, such as a small nose or recessed chin, limiting the size of the airway.
  • Socioeconomic status. As mentioned previously this may be due to the decreased access to quality health care and exposure to other environmental factors may underlie the challenges that is often experienced by those in this range of the economic scale.
  • Lifestyle habits. Cigarette smoking and obesity are significantly associated with snoring. Alcohol consumption is also problematic, as it causes the muscles of the throat and airway to relax, which makes it easier for the airway to become partially collapsed.
  • Family history. Similar to race and ethnicity, because some of the factors are genetic—such as facial features—a family history of snoring is also a likely indicator.
  • Gender and age. Studies have found that men are more likely to snore than women. Being advanced in age (i.e., 60 years old or older) is also associated with the presence of snoring, possibly because of problems maintaining sufficient muscle composure of the airway, or complications from other health conditions common in elderly individuals.

While it is not possible to change your genes or ethnicity there are a number of things that can be done to eliminate or reduce snoring. Lifestyle changes and sleep hygiene can be easy, cost-effective solutions to reduce snoring. Snoring and sleep aids can also available in eliminating snoring and apnea. If snoring is a serious problem a physician should be consulted to determine the best treatment plan.

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